August 7, 2008

Sanchez poised in fall debut

After the Trojans first practice Wednesday, Mark Sanchez took some time making his way over to the media.

He signed some autographs. He posed for pictures. He shook hands. He even kissed a baby.

This is the life of the starting quarterback at USC, and the Trojans' current starter is getting good at all of it.

"I think he was very composed today. It was just a good, solid day of work for him," USC head coach Pete Carroll said. "He did some things like coming our and taking a shot on a deep ball on one of his first chances. He threw a couple of perfect comebacks.

"He really came out smoking."

The buzz is circling around the junior quarterback heading into camp. There's been photo shoots, extended interviews, extra attention and some scrutiny.

"It just comes with territory," Sanchez said. "I'm apathetic to it really."

The chance to take snaps with the first team has allowed for Sanchez to experience some neat experiences already.

"It's fun for me when ESPN comes to the house and they get the whole family involved. That was awesome," he said. "It was so cool for me and for them. They're my support group and my backbone."

Mentored by quarterbacks like Matt Leinart and John David Booty, Sanchez said his four years on campus prepared him for the added pressure and attention coming with his new job.

"What's helped me the most was being able to see Matt and J.D., talking to coach about Carson and how this position has really blown up in terms of notoriety and the celebrity status that comes with it," Sanchez said. "It's a fine balance, and none of that comes without having a great practice and playing well.

"If you don't, no one wants to talk to you."

After a solid first day, people wanted to talk to Sanchez, but he kept the early success in perspective.

"It's only the first day. It clicked really well today," he said. "We were firing on all cylinders and some young guys made some big plays, and the regulars, all those guys, they had perfect first days. They were in the right spot all day.

"I felt relaxed and at ease with the system. It's only the first day of installation and it's pretty basic stuff."

Since being named the starter late in spring ball, Sanchez has embraced the added leadership burden. He starred in summer workouts and spent extra time with his receivers and tight ends.

"(I took) the guys down to my house and throwing with the guys to build camaraderie and it let them understand they can trust me," he said. "Whenever we'd throw, we'd go out and have some fun. We'd just do something together."

Operating the offense with great confidence, Sanchez zipped balls around the field in the Trojan offense. He looked confident, and there's a reason for it.

"I was more excited than nervous. Those three games last year really put me over the top confidence-wise," Sanchez said. "It kind of got me going. If I ever start to doubt myself, I can go back to the film and see that I've made the throws already. I've run a two-minute drill."

Wednesday, Sanchez looked poised. He acted like he belonged on the first team, and his roommate, fullback Stanley Havili, took notice.

"Mark's been a vocal leader all summer, and coming into camp, I think he wants his actions to do the talking - let his play speak for him. We expect that of Mark. He's been like that. Today was a great day.

"You could tell he'll be able to lead this team."

Still, Sanchez knows a championship isn't obtained in a single practice, and he said he's playing with a sense of urgency.

"Going the whole summer knowing you're going to be the guy, that helps the confidence," he said. "It's an ongoing battle and I can't get complacent, but it felt good coming into today, knowing I'd be with the first group."

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