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Football Notes

So the question is how are they progressing? As I said the other day, I don't think the competition open, and it appears that Mark Sanchez continues to impress Steve Sarkisian.

USC quarterback Mark Sanchez might have the strongest arm among the quarterbacks, but does he have the strongest since Carson Palmer?

That's what offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said of the frontrunner in the quarterback competition.

"He has a very powerful arm," Sarkisian said. "The guy closest with that type of arm has been Carson."

Sanchez's arm strength was apparent when he threw from one side of the field to the other, Sarkisian said. It's a throw that Sanchez's chief competitor, Mitch Mustain, is working on during spring drills.

"He's still feeling his way in anticipation of those throws," Sarkisian said. "That will come in time."

Sarkisian claimed Sanchez's three starts last season or Mustain's 8-0 record at Arkansas two years ago will not be factored into the decision over who starts next season.

I am not sure I agree with that last sentence, I do think it will be factored in, knowing the playbook is a big part but learning how to read opposing defenses.

As I already discussed, Coach Carroll said early last week that there was no time table to name a starter and Steve Sarkisian also noted last week that they would name a starter before spring ball was over. I would agree that it would be prudent to name the starter at the conclusion of spring ball so the team can hit the ground running in training camp. I think we will be in good hands regardless I just want them to leave no stone unturned during the process. Even when they are having an off day.

I certainly never thought it was an option but don't expected to see a two quarterback system this season either, Steve Sarkisian has all but ruled it out.

Even if every quarterback struggled in spring practice, it is not likely USC would ever go to a two-quarterback system next season.

"That would surprise me," USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said. "We've been a one-quarterback team since I've been here. And I was never a fan of that as a player of shuffling the quarterbacks."

But what happens if one quarterback struggles? Will the hook be quicker than in recent seasons?

That's actually a great question. Pete Carroll was hesitant to pull an injured John David Booty in the Stanford loss and that cost us a trip to the MNC, the question is have they learned from that incident? It would seem to me that they have but we won't until some form of disaster strikes and then a whole other host of questions and gnashing of teeth will be sure to follow.

With all eyes on the QB battle it's easy to miss what's going on primarily on the offensive and defensive line.

"They're puppies right now," offensive line coach Pat Ruel said. "I've got to get a lot of paper to get them trained."

But Ruel was optimistic following Friday's practice and told USC coach Pete Carroll the communication was actually ahead of last year's line.

"They're communicating and making calls they didn't make last year," Carroll said. "This is more of an athletic group than we've had."

Several players, like offensive tackles Charles Brown and Nick Howell, are getting extended snaps in practice, especially with starter Butch Lewis sidelined following offseason ankle surgery.

I would agree with the athletic aspect of this year's lines. It's going to be tough replacing Baker, Spanos, Ellis and Jackson but make no mistake that these guys will monsters its just going to take time. We thought some of the same things last season on the O line but we did OK so we can only hope that the same thing will happen next season.

Both the LAT and the PE are saying the same things when comes to the secondary. It is the same ol' same ol' with six players going after four spots.

[...] it's old home week in the secondary.

"Not too much difference at all," senior safety Kevin Ellison said. "Just like last year. We had 10 starters back then."

That number is seven this spring, with seven others who have started. And with the gradual return of cornerback/safety Josh Pinkard from knee surgery, there are six starters for four spots, led by All-American candidates Taylor Mays and Ellison. Also competing are cornerbacks Cary Harris, Shareece Wright and Kevin Thomas, back from a redshirt season after shoulder surgery.

This unit was a small concern last season but they are now one of the more stable units on the field and they will hit opposing receivers hard. Couple that with the linebacker unit that is still one the best groups in the country and its not hard to see that opposing offenses will still have a tough time dominating USC on defense. Speaking of that, there is an interesting thread on talking about Norm Chow's play calling tendencies.

This will obviously be the most anticipated match-up of next season. And there is a lot of speculation about how Chow's offense will match-up against SC's defense. All I will say is this, he'll figure out some things and he'll fail at some things but in the end I don't care how well he schemes it's the players that will have to execute and it will tough next season with that ucla O line, that QB will be running for his life. I would look to 2009 before you really see a big difference.

More in the coming days...