College Football Team With The Most First Round Draft Picks USC Trojan Quarterbacks in NFL – Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Matt Cassel, and Mark Sanchez

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

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

The football program at USC has consistently been one of the most premier college football institutions for decades. Despite a rich football history the USC Trojans have never experienced the degree of quarterback success that has abounded 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.

Carson Palmer began his current ten-year streak in the fall of 1998 when, as a true freshman, he took over starting quarterbacking duties from Mike Van Raaforst after the eighth game of the year. Carson Palmer had a breakout season his senior year of college when his culmination of experience finally made him the capable passer he is. In his senior season, Carson Palmer became the fifth Trojan and the first player at USC to win the Heisman Trophy at a position other than running back. Carson Palmer was the top pick in the 2003 NFL Draft on field performance when he was selected first overall in the draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Matt Leinart followed in the footsteps of his predecessors and won the Heisman Trophy (awarded annually to the top college football player) as a junior at USC. At USC Leinart quarterbacked a very talented Trojans team that won the national championship in 2003 and narrowly lost to the University of Texas in the national championship game the following year. (USC’s Rose Bowl loss to Texas is considered one of the greatest college football games in history.) Like Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart was a first-round NFL draft pick. Leinart was taken seventh overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2006 NFL Draft.

Matt Cassel was the USC quarterback who saw less time on the field due to his status as backup quarterback to both superstar quarterbacks Palmer and Leinart. Cassel has proven to be a serviceable starting quarterback with remarkable upside in the NFL despite throwing just 33 passes (19 completions) in his four-year college career. His success earned him a starting position after filling in for an injured Tom Brady with the New England Patriots in 2008, and was subsequently signed by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Matt Leinart and Matt Cassel split time with fellow USC quarterback John David Booty following the departure of Mark Sanchez until Sanchez took over signal calling duties full-time and drew praise from NFL scouts. Despite public concerns from his head coach Pete Carroll, Sanchez chose to leave school early to pursue his NFL career. After one year in the NFL it appears that Sanchez made the right decision to leave USC early as the New York Jets selected him with the fifth overall pick and led the team to the AFC Championship team in his rookie season, which was unlikely. Degree of success for any first-year quarterback.

The USC quarterback legacy, which chronologically includes 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. One thing is certain, the quarterback legacy under USC head football coach Pete Carroll will always be looked back on as a bright spot in NCAA football.

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