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Booty Secures No. 2 Spot

With Leinart hurting, the freshman could see his first action against Stanford.

October 10, 2003|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

John David Booty was officially named USC's No. 2 quarterback on Thursday, setting the stage for the heralded freshman's debut on Saturday against Stanford.

Coach Pete Carroll said the Trojans would turn to Booty if starter Matt Leinart was unable to play or if he was injured or ineffective.

Leinart, who is nursing a high right ankle sprain suffered against Arizona State, practiced Thursday and said he would be ready to start. But the redshirt sophomore moved gingerly throughout the workout and took fewer repetitions than Booty.

"Early in the week I was kind of iffy about it," Leinart said. "But after today, I feel like I'm ready to go."

Booty, 18, said he "would have butterflies" on Saturday but was prepared to start or relieve Leinart after taking the majority of snaps during the last two days of practice. Given Leinart's condition, it seems likely that Booty will play for the ninth-ranked Trojans during their only home game in October.

"It will be my first game, so I'll be pretty jacked up and ready to go, but that's when you have to make sure to calm yourself down and remember what you're supposed to be doing," said Booty, who skipped his final season at Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport, La., to compete for playing time at USC.

Coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Norm Chow ostensibly gave Booty the chance to become Leinart's backup on Wednesday after junior Brandon Hance got the majority of work the day before.

Booty impressed and came back with another strong day on Thursday, prompting Carroll to make Booty's status official.

"He's ready to go," Carroll said. "He put together a good week here and a bunch of weeks behind it that led him up to it.... He's going to be competing for a job here in the future, and he needs to get playing time to see what he can do."

Carroll said he was eager to see Booty perform against the Cardinal, but was tempering his expectations.

"I'm not sure, with the newness, that he's going to go out and just light it up when he gets in there, but he's ready to start playing, and we'll see where he is if we get the opportunity," Carroll said.

Booty, who passed for 8,474 yards in high school, has not played in a game since December when he led Evangel Christian to Louisiana's Class 5-A state title at the Superdome in New Orleans. He has not been in a backup role since his freshman year at Evangel Christian when he completed nine of 11 passes.

After watching Booty command the offense and complete numerous short, mid-range and deep throws this week, Chow said Booty is physically equipped to handle a backup or starting role.

"The concern is his ability to handle it mentally," Chow said.

No problem, said Booty, who added that he would not need the offense simplified if called upon.

"I think I can handle all of it, I really do," he said.

Booty said he benefited immensely from the heavy workload in practice this week, especially with the prospect of playing time looming.

"Now, getting reps everyday, I've been able to get myself prepared and focused before practice even begins. Even watching film upstairs before practice, I find myself more into it," he said.

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