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USC FOOTBALL REPORT

No Standouts in This Crowd

March 09, 2003|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

USC finished its first week of spring practice on Saturday with no real movement in the search for a new starting quarterback.

Redshirt sophomore Matt Cassel, redshirt freshmen Matt Leinart and Billy Hart and junior transfer Brandon Hance all had their moments during the first four workouts.

"You try to find one to step up, and away and out, but I don't think anyone has," offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. "They're all doing good things."

A crowd of about 400 ringed Howard Jones Field throughout practice Saturday as the Trojans conducted competitive drills. Among the interested onlookers was John David Booty, a senior-to-be at Evangel High in Louisiana who is regarded as perhaps the top prep quarterback prospect in the nation.

All four of the players competing to succeed Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer said they are receiving equal opportunity to win the job.

"We're all getting a shot to show what we can do," Leinart said.

During the week, each quarterback led the offense on touchdown drives. Each also made mistakes and was pressured by a defense that is expected to be one of the best in college football next season.

"I'd like to think that there were a few statements made during the course of the week, but it all comes down to how the coaches perceive it," Cassel said.

Trojan Coach Pete Carroll said Cassel and Leinart's familiarity with the plays is evident and that he intends to continue giving Hart and Hance the opportunity to catch up.

"I don't think any of the four of us have done enough to really separate ourselves," Hance said. "We're all pretty much in the same boat. We've shown some sparks of really good things."

Hart, also an outfielder for the Trojan baseball team, practiced Friday then left for a baseball game against UCLA at Jackie Robinson Stadium. He did the same Saturday after making several impressive throws.

"This is the most practice I've done in two years," Hart said. "They've been giving me a lot of reps, so I'm learning a lot each day."

The Trojans continue their workouts Tuesday, Thursday and Friday before breaking for a week.

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