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Audio: Matt Ryan interviews John David Booty on the upcoming season

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Story:Reclaiming the Past

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The struggle to the top

      Carson Palmer was gone. The talented Booty would battle the little-known Leinart for a chance to take over as the starting quarterback. Just as it seemed this might be his time, Booty faced disappointment. Leinart was named the starter, and he would have to settle for No. 2 – a position he would be stuck in for the next three years. But Booty never got down on himself, and he never considered leaving USC.

       “Obviously I would have loved to play sooner, but that’s life. That’s college football. And that’s what happens when you go to a program like ‘SC. There are always going to be good guys there and you have to bring your best or you might not be out there,” he said.


Photo credit: USC Sports / Daily Trojan.

      From the sidelines, Booty watched Leinart’s Heisman Tropy run and the buzz in L.A., the magazines, the newspapers, the Hollywood lifestyle. He watched as Leinart became the biggest thing in the city next to Kobe Bryant. But jealousy is just not something Booty knows, or at least not something he’s willing to admit.

       “I am a Southern boy anyways, and I didn’t grow up out here in the whole Hollywood scene. To see it is kind of fun. It is not something I was ever jealous of. I am not all into that kind of scene anyways. I was happy for (Leinart) and to see him do well and succeed.”

      Although Booty is expected to be the starting quarterback this fall when the Trojans open the season Sept. 2 at the University of Arkansas, heralded freshman quarterback Mark Sanchez is breathing down his neck. Sanchez is, according to Carroll,  more ahead of “any quarterback” during his tenure as coach,  and Sanchez has wowed the entire staff with his ability to throw the ball downfield.

       The two quarterbacks were expected to split repetitions during spring practice, but once again misfortune struck Booty in the form of an injury. Back spasms forced him out of spring practice, and he had surgery on March 30 to fix a bulging disc; the surgery will  sideline him eight to 12 weeks. But it won’t be the first time Booty has overcome injuries. In 2003, he broke his wrist against UCLA and was sidelined for the team’s final two games, including the Rose Bowl. Then in 2004, a badly bruised right elbow forced him to redshirt for medical reasons and miss the season.

Booty still Number One

      Despite missing most of spring practice with injury and then surgery, Booty is still listed as the starting quarterback in the final spring depth chart released by USC on April 14. Carroll said Booty’s experience alone is not something Sanchez can catch up to overnight.

      “John David is way ahead of Mark,” Carroll said. “He has had two years in this system and you can tell. He is very comfortable with the system and the reads.”

      "As a competitor, you can't look at the negative side," Booty said. "It's a competition (to be starting quarterback), but I've waited my turn here."

      Carroll said the situation is different from spring practice in 2003 when USC was searching for a replacement for Carson Palmer. Carroll made it clear back then that he wanted to end the series of workouts with a clear No. 1 starter so first-team players could work out with him on their own. But Booty’s injury changes everything.

      "It's not a competitive situation for John David until he gets back," Carroll said. "He did everything to get ready for this camp … he deserves every chance to get back and show what he can do."


"I don’t have to put everything on my shoulders. I have best receiving corps in America,” Booty said. There’s Jarrett, Steve Smith, Patrick Turner and incoming freshman  Vidal Hazleton.

      Last year Booty had a chance to really work on his game when Leinart decided to return for his senior year, and Booty gained valuable game-time experience that will most definitely benefit him. While Leinart did not attempt a college pass until his first start, Booty played in 10 games last season, completing 27 of 42 passes for 327 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

      More importantly, Booty has the talent around him to succeed.  “I don’t have to put everything on my shoulders. I have best receiving corps in America,” Booty said. There’s Jarrett, Steve Smith, Patrick Turner and incoming freshman  Vidal Hazleton.

       “Just get the ball to them and let them do what they do. I don’t have to make every throw where everyone is like ‘Wow.’ Just get it into the hands of the playmakers and let them do the rest.”

      In his presumed starting role, Booty will take his reign in a new era in Trojan football. There is no more winning streak, no talks about USC fielding the best team of all-time. Booty welcomes the opportunity for a fresh start and a chance to carve out his own legacy.

      “All the guys are hungry. And all they guys working hard trying to form (a new identity),” Booty said. “We have a lot of good guys coming back. There is no pressure on anybody to do more than we have done. We just got to keep doing what we do.”

      “We have a pretty good thing going here at SC and we want to keep it going.”

 

 

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