USC: 'Real Close,' But No Start
USC quarterback John David Booty has thrown problem-free in the last two days of practice, but "real close" is not close enough for the senior QB. Unless something miraculous happens in the next 48 hours, Booty will most likely miss his third consecutive game on Saturday, as the swelling in his broken middle finger is still hampering his play. All signs point to Mark Sanchez taking over the Trojans for this weekend's key Pac-10 matchup with Oregon, and maybe for the rest of the season, as well.
On Wednesday, Booty participated in his longest practice since breaking his finger and head coach Pete Carroll was surprised by how well Booty's finger was responding. Still, the senior does not yet have full control of his throwing motion, and Wednesday showed no improvement on Tuesday.
"He doesn't have a feel on the football right now," Carroll said. "The ball might fly on him. If we were to play today, Mark would have started."
Even Booty has recognized that he's not all there.
"I'm getting some velocity back," the senior said. "I really feel good. I'm getting feeling back in it. There's been so much improvement, it's like night and day."
Apparently, even that much improvement is not enough for the Trojans, who are in a must-win situation against the fifth-ranked BCS team, Oregon. The Trojans are currently ranked 12th in the BCS standings, and simply cannot afford another conference loss. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian spoke about looking at the long-term, saying that he would rather rest Booty this week than risk further injury, but Sanchez may have the chance to solidify his starting role this weekend. If the sophomore can put together a convincing performance against the Ducks, he may stay where he is for the forseeable future.
Carroll has yet to pick a starter for Saturday, and Sarkisian will continue to monitor Booty in the waning hours before game time, but the forecast does not look good for the senior.
"I think he's learning to deal with the pain of it," Sarkisian said. "It's good to have two good quarterbacks."
Not if you're John David Booty, it's not.
Trojans Returning To Battle
While Booty may be riding the bench for the rest of the year, several other Trojans should be back in action as early as Saturday. Two key offensive linemen, left tackle Sam Baker and right guard Chilo Rachal, should be ready to go Saturday, as should offensive guard Jeff Byers, who has been bothered by a neck stinger, but practiced the past few days. Offensive tackle Drew Radovich took Wednesday off to rest his sore back, and his status for Saturday is unclear.
Tailback Joe McKnight has had a string of bad luck, culminating in Wednesday's practice, when he got hit in his lower hip in the same spot where he bruised it against Notre Dame. The freshman will have to don some extra pads, but should be fine to play. Fellow tailback Stafon Johnson should also play against Oregon, even though his sprained foot is keeping him at around 80-85 percent.