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USC has horses; UCLA has cart

CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

August 11, 2008|Chris Dufresne

Anatomy of a local college training camp weekend: UCLA's starting quarterback got off on the wrong foot and USC's starting quarterback got off on the wrong knee.

Football is a rough sport, but this was ridiculous.

Mark Sanchez, a redshirt junior who had to wait for Matt Leinart and John David Booty to leave to get his chance to play quarterback at USC, dislocated his left kneecap Friday while tossing a pass to a teammate during warmups.

You know how dangerous that can be.

Ben Olson, a senior (citizen) who seems as though he's raised a family of four during his quixotic career, was carted off the UCLA field Saturday after he injured the same right foot he injured last spring, and Sunday the school announced he would be out at least eight weeks.

Add UCLA Medical Center's favorite down-and-outpatient Patrick Cowan to this battered mix and that makes three onetime starting local quarterbacks who have been injured in practice without being touched.

Is it time for a joint cross-town rivalry exorcism?

What's going to happen when Trojans and Bruins face live contact against real teams in those things they play called games?

Cowan and Olson last spring were injured on consecutive plays in noncontact drills and taken off Spaulding Field on the same golf cart.

Olson has now used the golf cart so many times he's leased it with an option to buy.

Cowan, a senior, ripped up his knee and is done for the season. Olson had his foot surgically repaired and was supposed to be good to go entering training camp.

And then someone yelled "hut."

Sanchez's injury is not believed to be as serious as first feared, but that's what they said about Lakers center Andrew Bynum's dislocated kneecap.

Olson?

We'll have to wait and see.

While these weekend injuries were unquestionably freakish, we can't see where anything's changed in terms of objectives and prospects.

It's a shame Sanchez and Olson might be denied a chance to start, or finish, what they started after carrying sideline clipboards for so long.

But the big picture remains the same:

USC is still a top-five team entering its opener at Virginia on Aug. 30 and UCLA still looks like a four-, five- or six-win program in transition.

USC has the luxury of replacing Sanchez with Mitch Mustain, a transfer from Arkansas who seemed to be taking a huge, if not presumptuous, risk in leaving Fayetteville for Los Angeles last year knowing Sanchez was already ensconced.

How's that move look now?

Mustain, a sophomore, didn't just fall off a hog truck.

He was a prospect of the highest order coming out of Springdale, Ark., in 2006 and left Arkansas only because of a philosophical clash with former coach Houston Nutt.

Mustain is 61-2 as a starting quarterback dating back to ninth grade. He was 8-0 as Arkansas' starter in 2006 with five wins -- Vanderbilt, Auburn, Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina -- coming against Southeastern Conference schools.

USC's offense, even if it has to dip below Mustain to freshman Aaron Corp, will probably not fall on its face.

Olson's early-August injury might prevent us from having to cover our eyes come September.

The combination of his lack of mobility and UCLA's inexperienced offensive line was worrisome when you thought of top-25 Tennessee coming to the Rose Bowl on Labor Day night.

Olson was always going to be a stopgap on this rebuilding team.

The Bruins bought short-term insurance in signing junior college transfer Kevin Craft but may end up going straight to redshirt freshman Chris Forcier.

Forcier, unlike Olson and Craft, has wheels, and chances are this year's UCLA quarterback is going to have to run like Forrest Gump.

Forcier rushed for 631 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior at St. Augustine High in San Diego.

At one point in his prep career, Forcier ran track.

Good thing, because we see high hurdles on UCLA's horizon.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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