Mark Sanchez was officially cleared to play by team doctor Dr. James Tibone after Tuesdays practice. Unfortunately and expected it wasn't the most productive practice for Sanchez.
The junior had two passes intercepted during the Trojans' final scrimmage drill."I was bummed," Sanchez said of the interceptions by cornerback Cary Harris and defensive end Malik Jackson. "I was working hard and trying to get the ball to open receivers and they made pretty good plays."
Coach Pete Carroll said Sanchez otherwise looked good and praised his mobility, but added, "There's some rust in there and we've got to hopefully get him clean by the weekend."
The turnovers put a slight damper on a day when Sanchez said he "felt as close to a 100% as I've felt in a long time."
I did not expect him to simply pick up where he left off prior to his injury and that is another reason why Carroll and Sarkisian upped the tempo to get Mustain and Corp ready to go. I still believe that one or both will see some playing time against UVA regardless of how the game is going.
More important Pete Carroll named his #2 QB and it will be Aaron Corp.
USC freshman Aaron Corp will officially be the Trojans' No. 2 quarterback ahead of sophomore Mitch Mustain for Saturday's season opener against Virginia.
"If we played tonight, Aaron would go first," offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said. "But that doesn't mean (the competition is) over. They both worked extremely hard."
Sarkisian said Corp has improved dramatically since spring practice.
"They both played well and have a ways to go, but Aaron really progressed," Sarkisian said. "He's extremely mobile and has done a nice job with the deep ball. Is he perfect? No. He still needs to learn some things with game management."
This is almost symbolic in nature as it is pretty clear that Corp progressed nicely over the past 6 months but they also had to name a starter even though Sarkisian says the competition is not over. As I have said before I don't care who starts or who plays I just want to win. I am not interested in carrying the flag for a specific player. Yes, I thought Mustain would be the better candidate because of his experience but I was clearly wrong but that doesn't change the fact that I want to win.
Back to Sanchez, he is not getting a free pass on is performance from the coaching staff.
Carroll said he did not view the interceptions as understandable following Sanchez's prolonged absence.
"We don't ever want stuff like that to happen and then brush it off," Carroll said.
Sanchez downplayed the interceptions by safety Kevin Ellison and defensive end Malik Jackson because he was more excited to practice full-speed with no problem.
He can downplay them all he wants but he needs to sharpen things up before the team hits the road to Virgina.
We have discussed before how important the TE spot is in this offensive scheme. We saw how important Big Fred Davis was to us last year and his production really got him noticed not to mention the John Mackey Award. This season will be no different and there is a lot of compettion for the starting job.
Junior Anthony McCoy has suffered some drops in practice but is a solid blocker. Redshirt freshman Rhett Ellison has performed well and senior Jimmy Miller had a couple of good scrimmages. But the real buzz around practice has focused on Blake Ayles.
The 6-5, 255-pound freshman from Orange Lutheran High has shown the speed and hands to make big plays. Pete Carroll calls him "a real playmaker . . . he's fast, light on his feet." The question is: Can he handle the complexities of the position? In USC's offense, the tight end must operate from numerous formations, sometimes shifting wide or lining up in the backfield.
Ayles has been an absolute monster in camp and he is alreeady getting some national pub as one of the top freshmen to watch this season. Its simply another weapon that offense has at its disposal.
Once Sanchez gets back on track it will be interesing tosee how really runs the offense with such a diverse group of weapons.
More later today.