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NYCats
09-02-2009, 04:56 PM
Mustain invisible at USC, focused on NFL
by Mark Kriegel

Mark Kriegel is the national columnist for FOXSports.com. He is the author of two New York Times best sellers, Namath: A Biography and Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich, which Sports Illustrated called "the best sports biography of the year."

add thisRSSemailprint Updated: September 2, 2009, 3:46 PM EDT 183 comments
LOS ANGELES - Three years ago today, a true freshman from Arkansas distinguished himself in mop-up duty, coming in during the fourth quarter to lead the Razorbacks on an 80-yard touchdown drive against USC. The Trojans still won by a score of 50-14. But Mitch Mustain, among the most decorated high school quarterbacks ever, had proven his point. Mustain was promptly named the starter, and went on to win eight games that season.
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But coach Houston Nutt's offensive scheme did little or certainly not enough to highlight Mustain's magnificence to his prospective employers in what he calls "The League." So he transferred, forsaking Fayetteville for Hollywood, and a shot at the most glamorous and potentially lucrative position in college sports. Under Pete Carroll, USC has become the premiere finishing school for NFL quarterbacks.

But three years later, Mustain who was 8-0 in the country's toughest conference is a third-string redshirt junior. Though impressive in the summer scrimmages, his snaps are few and far between, as they come behind the true freshman starter, Matt Barkley, and redshirt freshman Aaron Corp, neither of whom has won any college games. Mustain spends most of the practice sessions waiting on the field, his chin strap buckled.

"It's tough," he said Tuesday afternoon. "Then again I've been on the other side. I've been the guy."

Mustain expresses no resentment about the way things have worked out. At 21, he's more of a pro than a lot of the pros. But the idea of such an able and experienced third-stringer should tell you a few things.

First, as ever, it's astonishing to consider what Carroll has built, the amount of sheer talent he's been able to stockpile. Second, there's Carroll's fallibility, or perhaps, self interest. It was just months ago that Carroll told Mark Sanchez, along with the rest of the world, that he wasn't ready for the pros. Not only has Sanchez impressed everybody in earning a starting job with the New York Jets, he has a contract that guarantees him $28 million.

So don't condemn the player who takes his shot. He knows how little separates the slots on the depth chart. He knows better than you how rare his chances are. He knows they can be suddenly imperiled with an injury or a coach's change of heart.


The same coach who thinks his fourth-year star isn't ready might be ready for a true freshman. It's not loyalty; it's economic determinism.

Sanchez was merely abiding by the precepts of a program whose first commandment is "Always Compete." He believed in himself even more than his coach.

More surprising is the guy he beat out just last year. Even as Mustain buckles that chinstrap, waiting for nothing, he still believes, perhaps more fiercely than ever.

Three years later, he's entirely unaware that Sept. 2 marks the anniversary of that Arkansas-USC game. Then again, at 21, Mitch Mustain doesn't care much for the past. He's still in it for the future. That's why he came here, for his shot with The League.

"I wanted to find a place that I was going to get developed," he said. "I wanted to make sure I knew my stuff, even if that meant fighting through the lineup. This is about the best place I could find."

I ask the Trojans' third-string quarterback if he'd do it all over again.

"Yup," he said. "I took that risk to be here and it hasn't paid off yet, but there's still a lot of time ... These are long seasons. People get hurt. Things happen. Last year with Mark is a good example. There were several times I was a couple inches from playing the rest of the season or playing the full game at least."

<a href="http://photobucket.com/images/mitch%20mustain" target="_blank"><img src="http://i123.photobucket.com/albums/o296/razorbackfan_4/MITCH.jpg" border="0" alt="Mitch Mustain Pictures, Images and Photos"/></a>

Three years ago Sept. 2, Mustain became an instant star at Arkansas with one drive against vaunted USC. Now he can't get on the field for the Trojans. (Brian Bahr. / Getty Images)
What's more, Mustain says he'll remain at USC for the next two years. "For sure," he says.

Again, his motivation isn't blind loyalty; it's business sense. "I knew I was going to have to fight Sanchez and others for the job," he said. "But I feel like I got the knowledge to where when it comes around to it in two years I'll be ready.

"We're learning stuff here that translates very well into most places in The League. This is a system that prepares us. Any of us in the quarterback room could step in front of NFL scouts on the blackboard."

That includes Mustain's backup, Garrett Green, a true senior: "I'm sure he could match the pro guys in terms of knowledge."

Mustain might've come here to be the next Carson Palmer or Matt Leinart, but he now takes greater comfort in the example of Matt Cassel. Cassel, who never started a game at USC, has a brand new $63 million contract, $28 million guaranteed.

And that's what you need to know about quarterbacks and the college experience.

"It's a business," says Mitch Mustain.

Chicat
09-02-2009, 05:11 PM
Hey NYCats, thanks for posting all of the articles you have over the past few weeks. Just as an FYI, we've received complaints from media outlets in the past about posters taking their material and posting it verbatim here. So the Admin has asked posters to only post short blurbs from the article (2 or 3 paragraphs is usually good) and to supply a link to the rest of the article.

MountainCat
09-02-2009, 05:16 PM
I wondered what happened to him. I haven't heard anything since last year when Sanchez was QB. Although if he thinks he is the next Cassel and will make Millions in a couple of years without starting once.........I don't think so.

Maybe Jerry Jones will draft him to replace Romo once on board. :lol2:

catgrad97
09-02-2009, 08:26 PM
Weird how Leinart had the better college career than Sanchez, and yet it is Mark who is starting right away in the league while Matt struggles to develop and languishes on the bench behind a 37-year-old.

Just goes to show you that the talent can come from anywhere at anytime in Troy. Always dangerous, every down, every play. The Trojans are always a threat to break the game open on either side of the ball.

the real dill
09-03-2009, 09:46 AM
Weird how Leinart had the better college career than Sanchez, and yet it is Mark who is starting right away in the league while Matt struggles to develop and languishes on the bench behind a 37-year-old.

Just goes to show you that the talent can come from anywhere at anytime in Troy. Always dangerous, every down, every play. The Trojans are always a threat to break the game open on either side of the ball.

Didn't Matt start right away too? Vince Young was the starter after 3 games. Not so much how fast you get there, but how long you stay. Now, those two guys are probably going to be cut at the end of this year from both their teams when their salaries accelerate at the end of the season.

CatsbyAZ
09-03-2009, 10:43 AM
Mustain is a baby. This is what happens when greed takes over. The starting job at Arky was his through his senior year and that wasn't good enough. He deserves to ride the bench behind a true fresh.

Remember, the top three QB's of his class were 1) Matthew Stafford 2) Mustain & 3) Tebow. Which one of these do not belong? One is a #1 overall pick. One will go down as possibly the greatest college player & the most discussed player of all time.