Back to school with QB Matt Leinart

first_imgIn the second edition of our exclusive series, “Back to School,” the DT caught up with former USC quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart.USC has always been renowned for its greek system, but its most exclusive club might very well be that of former Trojan quarterbacks. From Rodney Peete in the ’80s to Carson Palmer at the start of the new millennium, USC quarterbacks have had a tremendous amount of on-field success, earning the program the designation of “Quarterback U.”Arguably the greatest legacy a USC quarterback can leave at the school, though, is a national championship, and the last one to accomplish that was none other than 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, who led the Trojans to a 55-19 victory in the 2005 Orange Bowl over Oklahoma. After falling short to Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns in a memorable 2006 Rose Bowl, Leinart went on to play in the NFL for the Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders before leaving the professional game in 2013.With his No. 11 jersey retired under the peristyle of the Coliseum after he graduated, Leinart has never really left USC. Now, he is back in full-force in the college football world as a studio analyst on FOX Sports 1’s “College Football” show. He also frequently makes appearances on the Pac-12 Network.Since transitioning from the field to the studio and making his debut as an analyst in 2014, Leinart has had the opportunity to experience the other side of the college game.“Being surrounded by the media, it’s different, but it’s fun,” Leinart said. “But I’ve always loved college football and the tradition and history of it all.”A two-time All-American, Leinart wrote a lot of his own history with the Pete Caroll-coached teams he quarterbacked, but he’s looking forward to seeing what this year’s team can accomplish under second-year head coach Steve Sarkisian.“Last year was difficult learning a new system and having some of those growing pains, but it’s a new year, the team’s learning from their mistakes in game situations and all they have to do is keep moving forward,” Leinart said.Leinart seemed satisfied with the team’s first victory of the season over Arkansas State, 55-6, last Saturday.“Week one, you always have to look at the big picture, especially with a team that you are expected to beat, but I thought they had a pretty solid performance,” Leinart said. “A lot of guys played, Cody [Kessler] looked good, Ronald Jones showed some things, so it was good all around.”He does believe, though, that the Trojans have areas to work and build upon, especially up front.“The struggles of the offensive line to protect Cody [Kessler] were definitely a concern,” Leinart said. “I wouldn’t be too alarmed because they will go back and look at the film and learn from their mistakes, whether it was a missed assignment or communication issues, but when you’re going to be playing a team like Stanford in a couple of weeks, it’s important to improve.”While comparisons have been made between the playing styles of Leinart and redshirt senior Cody Kessler, who is looking to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps after having a record-breaking season in 2014 on his way to becoming an early season Heisman Trophy candidate, Leinart believes that at the end of the day, Kessler has done a great job at becoming his own type of player and leader.“He’s got such a good head on his shoulders and knows to control what he can control and lead his football team,” Leinart said. “He’s not a flashy guy, but he’s a winner and is a lot more athletic than people give him credit for.”Another current USC player who reminds Leinart of one of his former teammates, the electric Reggie Bush, is sophomore cornerback and wide receiver Adoree’ Jackson.“Adoree’s a special player,” Leinart said. “He’s one of those players that, like Reggie, whenever he touches the ball, everyone just holds their breath to see what they’re going to do.”Some USC players might be giving Leinart a blast from the past, but he says that offenses in college football have drastically changed since he first lined up under center.“It’s completely different now,” Leinart said. “It used to be a lot more pro-style from under center, but now more than 50 percent of offenses just line up going no-huddle, and we see a lot of spread offenses.”Now in the second year of Sarkisian’s up-tempo system, the Trojans playing style has surely changed, but as they get ready to play just their second game of the season against Idaho on Saturday, Leinart says that the team’s mentality should remain the same.“Never read the papers, don’t believe in your own hype and always be focused on the team,” Leinart said. “The rest will take care of itself.”last_img

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