LOS ANGELES - Mark Sanchez made his own call.
Coming off a record-setting Rose Bowl, the Southern California quarterback will skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft - going against the advice of coach Pete Carroll.
Sanchez, a fourth-year junior, announced his plans at a campus news conference yesterday, the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft.
The past three stars who played quarterback at USC under Carroll stayed for their senior seasons, and the former NFL coach thought Sanchez should do the same.
Carroll tried to convince Sanchez that another year of college experience would help him in the pro game, but Sanchez said he had carefully weighed all the considerations before deciding to leave.
"It has been my dream since I was just a little kid to play in the NFL, and thanks to this great academic institution and football program I have the
opportunity to realize that dream," said Sanchez, dapperly dressed in a business suit.
"It was with a heavy heart that I say good-bye to this university. But I can't tell you how excited I am for this dream to come true."
Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, along with John David Booty, all returned for their final year of eligibility with the Trojans. Palmer was the first overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft and Leinart was selected 10th in 2005.
Carroll, who said he considers Sanchez as talented as any of those three, discussed the pros and cons with him.
"We've talked at great depth and great length. We've covered this from A to Z - going until late last night," Carroll said. "We don't see this decision the same. [But] I'm thrilled for Mark. For any of our kids to live the dream and do what they want to do with their football career, this is a great place to do this."
Because 2008 Heisman winner Sam Bradford of Oklahoma, 2007 Heisman winner Tim Tebow of Florida and Texas star Colt McCoy all plan to return to school next season, Sanchez and Georgia's Matthew Stafford - another junior coming out early - likely will be the top quarterback prospects in the draft.
Mitch Mustain, who transferred from Arkansas after going 8-0 in games he started as a Razorbacks freshman in 2006, is expected to compete with Aaron Corp, Garrett Green and incoming freshman Matt Barkley for the Trojans' starting job.
Carroll, a former head coach with the New York Jets and New England Patriots, thinks another year of college experience would have greatly benefited Sanchez, who started at USC for only one full season.
"Mark is going against the grain on this decision and he knows that. He knows that coming out early is a tremendous challenge for a quarterback and the statistics don't back up that it's easy to be successful in the way that he's going about it," Carroll said.
"We've seen successes and we've seen guys come up short on this deal. We hope this works out beautifully for Mark and his family."
Carroll isn't selling Sanchez short.
"He's a competitive guy, a guy that's willing to take on this challenge in a way that he's going to make it happen," the coach said. "Mark clearly has the potential to be as good as any of those guys we've had. We saw it early on. All it is is an experience issue."
Sanchez ended his college career with his finest game. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder went 28-for-35 against Penn State, setting a Rose Bowl record by completing 80 percent of his passes. He threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns, and also ran for a score in the Trojans' 38-24 victory.
Sanchez led the Trojans to a 12-1 record and No. 3 national ranking last season after going 2-1 the previous year while Booty was hurt.
A high school star in nearby Mission Viejo who redshirted at USC in 2005, Sanchez finished last season with 3,207 yards passing, 34 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
He threw for 695 yards and seven touchdowns with five interceptions in 2007.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Florida star Percy Harvin is taking his speed, elusiveness and durability concerns to the NFL. The junior playmaker said he is leaving school early to turn pro.
Even without Harvin, the
Gators likely will be the preseason favorite to win a third national championship in four years. But there's little doubt Florida will miss him.
A 5-foot-11, 195-pound
dynamo from Virginia Beach, Va., Harvin led the team in receiving and was second in rushing. He caught 40 passes for 644 yards and seven touchdowns, and ran for 660 yards and 10 scores.
He missed five games in three years because of injury and was limited in several more, an issue that could keep him from being a top 10 pick in April.
When healthy, though, Harvin looked like the fastest - maybe even the most talented - player on the field. He scored at least once in 15 consecutive games, the longest streak in the nation, and burned defenses while lining up at receiver, running back and even quarterback.
Harvin finished his career with 133 receptions for 1,929 yards and 13 touchdowns, and 194 carries for 1,852 yards and 19 scores. He averaged 9.5 yards per carry and 11.6 yards every time he touched the ball.