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Fan Expert profile submitted by AntiG:
He's the golden boy of college football. Has never lost a game as a starter. Heisman trophy winner in 2004 and among the top candidates this year. Leader of the defending champs and are undefeated so far this season as well. Broke Carson Palmer's USC TD record in the beginning of the season. Will likely be the first QB taken in the draft and potentially the #1 pick in the entire draft.
Teams Interested: Tennessee, New York Jets, Arizona, Baltimore, Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, Washington
Best Fits: Tennessee, Detroit, New York Jets
Worst Fits: Oakland, Arizona
CAREER: His 255 completions are ninth on the USC career ladder. His 3,494 yards of total offense is 14th on the USC career list.
2004: The left-handed Leinart, a record-setting All-American who is a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy and Davey O'Brien Award as a junior in 2004, returns for his second season as the starting quarterback. He was named to the prestigious 2004 Playboy Pre-Season All-American team (the first USC quarterback so honored).
2003: How's this for filling the shoes of a Heisman Trophy winner? Leinart, a sophomore who had never thrown a pass at USC while seeing brief action in just 3 games in 2002, won USC's starting quarterback job at the end of 2003 spring practice...by an ever-so-slight edge. He extended his hold on the job through 2003 fall practice, then put together a season in which it appeared there was little-if any-dropoff from Carson Palmer's 2002 Heisman production. In fact, Leinart's passing percentage, efficiency rating, TD passes, interceptions and won-loss record were better than Palmer's 2002 numbers. Overall in 2003 while starting all 13 games, Leinart completed 255-of-402 passes (63.4%) for 3,556 yards, 38 TDs and just 9 interceptions, plus he caught a 15-yard pass for a TD. He was a 2003 Collegefootballnews.com All-American first team, SI.com All-American second team and Rivals.com All-American honorable mention selection. He also was named the 2003 Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year (only the second sophomore to win that honor, along with Stanford's John Elway in 1980) and made the All-Pac-10 first team, as well as being selected the ESPN.com All-Pac-10 MVP and first team and Collegefootballnews.com All-Pac-10 Player of the Year, Offensive MVP and first team. He was 1 of 10 semifinalists for the Davey O'Brien Award and he even was sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting. He won the Touchdown Club of Columbus' Archie Griffin Award (nation's MVP). He was USC's team MVP and won the USC Player of the Game versus Notre Dame award.
He was third nationally in passing efficiency (164.5, first in Pac-10) and 19th in total offense (268.8, second in Pac-10). In his last 9 games, he threw for 2,632 yards and 30 TDs with just 3 interceptions on 65.5% passing (182-of-278). He threw at least 2 TDs in his last 12 games (included was a string of at least 3 TDs in the first 5 of those contests). He set a Pac-10 season record with 212 consecutive passes without an interception-stretching over 8 games-and fell just 4 passes short of the Pac-10 career record. His 164.5 passing efficiency rating was the best season in USC history. His 255 completions were third on the USC season list. His 38 TD passes was a Pac-10 season record (and the second most by any sophomore in NCAA history). His 3,494 yards of total offense was second on the USC season chart. He passed for more season yards than any sophomore in USC history, he is the first USC soph to have back-to-back 300-yard passing games and he is the first USC soph to have thrown for 3,000 yards in a season.
In his first career start, he was an efficient 17-of-30 for 192 yards with a touchdown (on his first career pass) at Auburn. He threw 3 touchdown passes against BYU while hitting 19-of-34 passes for 235 yards (but he had 3 interceptions). He then completed 71.4% of his passes (15-of-21) for 220 yards and 2 TDs (with no picks) in 3 quarters of action against Hawaii. He was 21-of-39 for 277 yards and 2 scores (but threw 3 interceptions) at California (in the second half, he hit 16-of-24 throws for 191 yards). He completed 12-of-23 passes for 289 yards and 2 TDs (57 and 33 yards) with an interception despite missing most of the second quarter with a banged up knee and ankle at Arizona State (he played while hobbled during the second half). He was 18-of-27 for 260 yards and 3 TDs (all to Mike Williams) in 3 quarters of action against Stanford (in the first half, he was 16-of-20 for 249 yards and all 3 scores). He completed 76.6% of his passes (26-of-34) for 351 yards and 4 TDs (career bests for completions, yards and TDs, as well as tying an Irish opponent record for TD passes) at Notre Dame (he hit his first 7 throws). Then, for the second week in a row, he threw for 351 yards, 4 TDs and no interceptions, this time on 19-of-29 passing (65.5%) at Washington (he was named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week). He was 17-of-31 for 191 yards and 3 TDs and no interceptions against a Washington State defense that was fourth nationally in pass efficiency defense (he was 6-of-7 for 93 yards and the 3 scores in the second half). At Arizona, he was 22-of-30 for 296 yards and 4 TDs (he was taken out midway through the third quarter) while setting a USC season record for consecutive passes without an interception. He was 23-of-32 for 289 yards and 2 TDs in 3 quarters of action against UCLA (he was 12-of-14 for 171 yards and a TD in the first quarter). Against Oregon State, he tied the USC game TD pass record (shared with Palmer and Rodney Peete) when he threw 5 scores (giving him a Pac-10 record 35 on the season) while hitting 22-of-38 passes for 278 yards with 2 interceptions (ending his Pac-10 season record streak of 212 consecutive passes without an interception, just 4 short of the Pac-10 career mark). He was named the Rose Bowl MVP as he threw 3 TD passes (on 23-of-34 passing for 327 yards) and he also caught a tricky 15-yard reverse pass for a TD against Michigan.
2002: Leinart was USC's third-string quarterback as a redshirt freshman in 2002. He appeared briefly late in 3 games (taking 2 snaps at Colorado, directing 3 series at Oregon and taking a snap UCLA), but didn't throw a pass. He also served as a backup holder on placekicks, but wasn't called on in that role.
2001: Leinart redshirted as a freshman quarterback in 2001, his first year at USC. He spent the season as the co-backup to Carson Palmer, although he never got into a game.
HIGH SCHOOL: His 2000 honors included Parade All-American, Super Prep All-American, Prep Star All-American, Student Sports Senior All-American, Prep Star Dream Team, Student Sports Top 100, Super Prep All-Farwest, Prep Star All-Western Region Super 30, Long Beach Press-Telegram Best in the West first team, Las Vegas Sun Super 11 first team, Tacoma News Tribune Western 100, Gatorade California Player of the Year, Cal-Hi Sports All-State second team, All-CIF Southern Section first team, All-CIF Division I Co-Offensive MVP, Los Angeles Times All-Orange County Back of the Year, Orange County Register All-Orange County first team and All-Serra League as a senior at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana (Calif.). He completed 192-of-309 passes (62.1%) for 2,870 yards, 28 TDs and 10 interceptions in 2000. Against national champion De La Salle High, he was 31-of-47 for 447 yards and 4 TDs. Mater Dei went 9-3 in 2000.
As a 1999 junior, he was the All-Serra League Offensive MVP while hitting 150-of-233 passes (64.4%) for 2,400 yards with 15 TDs and 6 interceptions. Mater Dei was the CIF Division I co-champion in 1999.
He sat out his 1998 sophomore season with a rotator cuff injury to his left (throwing) shoulder. Current Trojans Matt Grootegoed and Will Collins also prepped at Mater Dei.
PERSONAL: He's a sociology major at USC with a B- average (2.75 GPA).
MATT LEINART ON:
How he feels entering 2004 compared to 2003: "The difference is just amazing to me...My mentality, my confidence level, are so high. I feel like I'm on the top of my game and I just want to keep getting better."
The 2003 season: "If you'd told me when the season started that I'd do what I did, I never would have believed it...The season I had, that the team had, I think no one really expected that. It was a dream come true. It was kind of surreal in a way...I learned a lot from Carson Palmer on how to lead a team. He was the same all the time, never nervous, always calm under pressure. And that's kind of how I've been. And with all the talent around me, it would've been hard not to be successful."
Bouncing back from a first-half knee and ankle injury at Arizona State in 2003 and leading USC to victory: "I was trying not to limp, but I was in a lot of pain. Sometimes, you've got to play through it...The guys realized I was willing to do everything, even though I was just doing my job...I really didn't realize it that much at the time. But then I read the next day that some of the guys said we want to play for someone like that. I thought, 'Wow, these guys really have my back.' That was a huge turning point."
The confidence his teammates had in him from the start: "Mike Williams had my back from Day One. He was constantly in the newspapers saying I was the man. When one of the best players in the country is saying, 'This is our guy, he's going to lead us wherever we go,' that gives you great confidence."
Competing for the starting job in the spring of 2003: "I was real nervous in spring practice. Honestly, during the 2003 season, even the opener at Auburn, I wasn't ever nervous. I just wanted to do well. Spring ball, the pressure was so intense...But I showed some things I had never shown before with my arm and by not hesitating in my passing...I was in a tough position. I was feeling so much pressure. I was nervous at every practice, knowing I couldn't afford to make a mistake. It's completely opposite now."
Why he was a non-factor in first 2 years at USC: "My attitude was a big part of it and that needed to change. It was tough working all the time and not playing. There were times when I really just didn't care and didn't want to be there. But it seemed like as soon as Carson Palmer, everything changed. I realized I couldn't be that way anymore. I had to grow up and become a leader...I was upset with myself. In high school, you're the man. You come here and it's a reality check."
His personality: "I'm laid back. But I expect perfection. I'm very hard on myself...On the field, I have a cool confidence. I've never been arrogant. I could care less about awards. I just want to win...I don't like being in the spotlight. I just like playing. Obviously, you're going to be the hero or goat when you're the quarterback. But I'm kind of a more roll-with-things type of person."
WHAT OTHERS SAY:
USC head coach Pete Carroll: "Early in his career, he knew what was going on, he knew the system, he impressed the coaches in that way. But he really didn't deliver the ball well. He didn't throw the ball hard. He was kind of a touch guy...I wouldn't have thought that Matt would have all the success he had in 2003 in putting together such a consistent effort. It started with the opener at Auburn, the most difficult opener a kid could have. He went in there and was masterful. He really surprised us and then he just kept on surprising us. He bounced back from injury, from tough starts, from a time in the season when he he could have gone south. And he went forward and never looked back...He just improved steadily. His strengths became tremendous strengths for him, his smarts and his awareness and his poise...He's very comfortable with everything that we're doing. Nothing fazes him."
USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow:
"We were all a little surprised at how Matt's done...We were hoping and wanting him to be good, but obviously he surpassed a lot of expectations...His first two years, he was in every quarterback meeting, but hardly set foot on the field. When he did, he was ready for it. The bullets were flying fast, but we had confidence in him because of the time he spent in the classroom. He's now beyond us being able to surprise him. He knows. He understands...His smarts are what helped him have the kind of year he had...He gives us efficient, effective leadership...It really became his team at halftime of the Arizona State game when he came back from the injury. The most important people you have to show your worth to are your teammates. He showed his worth on that day."
Former USC quarterback coach Steve Sarkisian: "He is a very smart player. He understands when there are opportunities to take his shots and he sees when those shots aren't there and he checks it down. He does a great job of not forcing the ball."
USC quarterback Brandon Hance: "First and foremost, his confidence is the difference. When you're confident in yourself, in the system, in the players who surround you, everything starts clicking. Once he got that, the velocity picked up, he started throwing prettier balls, he had accuracy, leadership. It all just started clicking in the right direction."
Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr: "He has great accuracy, great size, great intelligence. He's going to be one of those guys that will have a career that we will all remember."
SEASON CMP ATT YDS CMP% YPA TD INT SACK RAT ATT YDS AVG TD
2004 251 377 2990 66.6 7.9 28 6 23 154.5 47 -33 -0.7 3
2003 255 402 3556 63.4 8.8 38 9 15 164.5 32 -62 -1.9 0