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Game On!

The Los Angeles Times has a couple articles this week about the upcoming competition for starting QB in 2008. Gary Klein to took the time to talk with both Mark Sanchez and Mitch Mustain. With spring ball starting in a couple of weeks now is as good a time as any to look a little more closely at who will be at the helm when SC takes the filed on Labor Day.

Here is the Sanchez article. Sanchez says a lot of the right things as would be expected and he plays it even keeled in regards to his relationship with Mustain and how is preparing himself for spring ball and ultimately training camp.

Do you consider this a competition? And if it is, is it a wide-open competition?

I think it's a competition but I also think I'm very confident. . . . I'm on the other end of the competition this time. Where [John David Booty] was with me, I was trying to play catch-up and really try to mature as fast as I can to try and take that starting role. With my experience last year, that will just help my chances more than anything. Because you can run the plays in practice. You can do it on the chalkboard and watch all the film and answer all the questions but once you do it, you affirm what you're all about. I can't wait for the off-season to be over. I just want to, let's go. Let's go to Virginia and let's play.

Did you feel like it was really a competition between you and Booty last year?

It's hard because for me, to have played, I think I would have had to complete something like 80% of my passes and not mess up in the huddle and just play outrageous, out of my head. At the same time the person who was penciled in as the starter would have had to play just God-awful. So it's tough when you think about it like that. I loved competing with J.D. I loved watching him make a good pass and trying to make the same exact one right after it. I wanted to do my best just to show that I could do it, just in case. And that 'just in case' happened and it was the best time of my life so I would never want to let it go.

What if anything did you learn from Booty and what did you take away from watching him and how he handled last year?

His levelheadedness was amazing to watch. Because if I hadn't seen that through him I don't know if I could have really understood what it's all about. You come to the Coliseum and you get booed? That blew my mind. My high school coach [ Bob Johnson] told me [his son, former USC quarterback] Rob was booed in the Coliseum and you know I'm like, 'What are you talking about? They love us, man, we're the quarterback. What are you talking about?' And when it happened I was like, 'Oh my God.' He was right, he was absolutely right. [Booty] was a great competitor, but to see him battle through that kind of adversity and come back and play the way he did and answer all the questions from the media, that's some of the toughest stuff.

I found his take on the whole sexual assault situation interesting. Again, he says a lot of the right things and it shows that he indeed grown from not only that experience but also from time in general. My only quibble is that while it is expected that a 19-year old kid certainly does not quite know the ways of the world, being the potential starting QB at SC should be obvious that one needs to take a little bit more time in making sure they are doing the right things. Someone should have made darn sure that he understood the responsibilities of the position he covets. Whether it's a coach or a family member someone should have reinforced it.

I think Sanchez has come a long way as it appears that he has his head in the right place, this chance to show us what he's got.

Here is the Mustain article. Mitch Mustain comes to SC with an impressive record under his belt. He plays a pretty deferential tone in the piece by Garry Klein but you know he is a competitor at heart. He also knows exactly what he needs to do to win the job.

Question: They call this a competition and say it's going to be a competition. Do you view it that way?

Answer: I certainly think I'll get a fair shot, but I don't think it's ridiculous to say that Mark's the leader. For good reason he is. I consider him the leader in the race and I think Aaron [Corp] does and I know the coaches do. But I think it is wide open and I think we'll all get a fair shot at it.

Q: How do you overcome that? If there's a leader, a guy who's been here, what do you think it's going to take to win the job?

A: I definitely have to get better and I have to be consistent in what we do. Know what we do, know how to run it, know how to execute it without making mistakes. I think that will be the biggest thing, if I can continue to improve and be consistent.

Q: If you're consistent and Mark doesn't have a terrible spring, are you prepared for the fact that you may not win the job?

A: Mentally I am. Who knows? It's definitely something coming in a year ago that I accepted. I knew it was going to be a probability and so I prepared myself for that. In that case I'll be the backup and continue to get better. Not hope for the worst for Mark but definitely be ready if my opportunity comes up.

Mustain was 8-0 as a starter at Arkansas against a very tough SEC schedule so he has been battle tested. To this day I am still not sure about all the controversy that surrounded Mustain and former Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt. What I do know is that the fanaticism that is SEC football probably raised the temperature on the whole torrid affair to the point that Mustain felt it was best for him to go. Their loss is our gain and that Mustain's real game experience will go a long way to help him settle in with the SC offense. Mustain has the tools and the moxy to win the starting job provided he has progressed enough with playbook.

Both QB's have their strengths and weaknesses. I tended to give the edge to Mustain, because of his game experience, in the past and I see no reason to my opinion now but it will come down to who has the hot hand come training camp. In the end it doesn't matter to me who starts I want who ever wins the job to play effective and efficient within the system and minimize the mental mistakes that can lose a game at any time. Sanchez is a bit more of a gunslinger and that can do some damage like we saw Sanchez do against Oregon. I can live with a loss if mistakes are minimized but I won't be happy if we lose a game because the QB tries to put the world on his shoulders and costs us a game.

This competition will be fun to watch and a lot of CFB aficionados will watch this battle intently.