USC quarterback John David Booty, who opened spring practice as the front-runner to succeed Matt Leinart, will have back surgery today but is expected to be ready for the start of training camp in August, Coach Pete Carroll said Thursday.
Booty, a fourth-year junior, has not practiced since suffering back spasms after the first spring workout March 21. Booty and the coaching staff had hoped he would be able to avoid surgery for a bulging disk that has bothered Booty since high school.
But Booty met with Dr. Robert Watkins again Wednesday and decided to undergo a procedure that will sideline him for eight to 12 weeks.
"Dr. Watkins felt that having surgery was the best option at this point, so we didn't want to wait any longer," Booty said in a statement. "We have a great team and I wish I could've been out there practicing with them this spring. Now I'm just going to focus on starting my rehab, getting better and returning to the field as soon as I can."
Carroll said the surgical solution would eliminate the unpredictable nature of Booty's condition. Booty suffered from back spasms as a high school sophomore at Evangel Christian Academy in Louisiana and also during his first training camp at USC in 2003.
"The idea is even if he recovers right now [without surgery] he'll still be on the verge and we won't be able to predict when it might go again," Carroll said.
Redshirt freshman Mark Sanchez has taken the first-team repetitions during Booty's absence and has impressed coaches and teammates with his arm strength, decision-making and poise.
Carroll, however, said he would not announce a starting quarterback at the end of spring practice, which means the Trojans will go through the summer and the start of training camp without a designated leader.
"John David did everything to get ready for this camp and this thing just popped up so he hasn't lost his job or anything like that," Carroll said. "I can't look at it in that way at all.
"So we'll come back and see how fit he is, see how it works and we'll make a decision in a couple weeks in camp."
Sanchez said he had no problem with Carroll's decision.
"It's totally fair," he said. "We'll wait to see when John David gets back and when camp comes around that will be another chance for me to show my stuff and be ready to play."
Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said Sanchez has performed well beyond his experience during Booty's absence.
"Everybody knows he can throw the ball -- he throws the ball too hard sometimes,' Kiffin said. "But mentally to do the things he's done with protections and the leadership role, he's been fabulous."
Carroll is hoping that Booty will be sound by July so he can work out before training camp begins the first week of August. The Trojans open the season at Arkansas on Sept. 2.
This will be the first time during Carroll's tenure at USC that the Trojans will enter training camp without a No. 1 quarterback. In 2001 and 2002, Carson Palmer was the returning starter. In 2003, Leinart was declared the starter near the end of spring practice.