USC Trojan Quarterbacks in NFL – Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Matt Cassel, and Mark Sanchez

USC has an impressive quarterback legacy that in recent history dates back to 1998 when Carson Palmer took his first snap at USC and paved the way for future college and NFL success for his successors in Matt Leinart, Matt Cassel, and mark Sanchez.

The football program at USC has consistently been one of the most premiere college football institutions for decades. Despite a rich football history the USC Trojans have never experienced the degree of quarterback success that has been abundant in the program over the past decade. In fact, the University of Southern California has experienced a consistent level of exceptionally high quarterback play over a ten year period that has never been matched by any college football program ever.

Carson Palmer began the current ten year window of excellence in the fall of 1998 when as a true freshman he took over the starting quarterbacking duties from Mike Van Raaphorst after the eighth game of the year. Carson Palmer had a breakout season his senior year of college when the culmination of his experience finally molded him into the passer he was capable of being. during his senior season Carson Palmer became the fifth overall Trojan and first player playing a position other than running back to win the Heisman Trophy at USC. On field accomplishments earned Carson Palmer a spot at the top of the 2003 NFL Draft when he was selected as the first overall player in the draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Matt Lienart followed in his predecessors footsteps and won the Heisman Trophy (given annually to the top college football player) as a junior at USC. at USC Leinart quarterbacked a very talented Trojan squad that won a national championship in 2003 and was narrowly defeated by the University of Texas the following year in the national championship game. (The USC Rose Bowl loss to Texas is widely considered one of the best college football games in history.) Like Carson Palmer Matt Lienart was also a first round NFL Draft Pick. Lienart was taken number seven overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2006 NFL Draft.

Matt Cassel was a USC quarterback who saw little time on the field as a result of his position as backup quarterback to both the superstar quarterbacks Palmer and Leinart. Despite only throwing 33 passes (19 completions) in his four year college career Cassel has proven to be a serviceable starting quarterback in the NFL with notable upside. after filling in for an injured Tom Brady with the new England Patriots in 2008 his success earned him the starting position and subsequent accompanying contract that goes with it from the Kansas City Chiefs.

Following the departures of Matt Leinart and Matt Cassel mark Sanchez split time with fellow USC quarterback John David Booty until Sanchez took over full time signal calling responsibilities and wowed NFL scouts. Despite public concerns from his head coach Pete Carroll, Sanchez elected to leave school early to pursue his NFL career. after one year in the NFL it appears that Sanchez made the right decision in leaving USC early as he was selected with the number five overall pick by the new York Jets and during his rookie season he took the team to the AFC Championship team, an unlikely degree of success for any first year quarterback.

The USC quarterback legacy which includes in chronological order Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Matt Cassel, and mark Sanchez has been a staple in college football for the past ten years. Exactly what the future holds with young USC quarterback Matt Barkley and new head coach Lane Kiffin remains to be seen. The one thing that is certain is that the quarterback legacy under USC head football coach Pete Carroll will always be looked back upon as a bright spot in NCAA football.

USC Trojan Quarterbacks in NFL – Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Matt Cassel, and Mark Sanchez


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