January 1, 2009

Sanchez should come back for senior year

Mark Sanchez ran around the field after finding Ronald Johnson for a score with a single finger raised on each hand.

He was in the midst of the half of his career. Three touchdowns, one rushing, tons of yards and tons of points had Sanchez and the rest of the USC family smiling.

After leading USC to a 38-24 win over Penn State Thursday in the Rose Bowl, Sanchez showed just why he could make Trojan fans smile again.

He should tell them and his teammates that he's returning for his senior year.

The Trojans will need to replace at least eight starters off of this year's startlingly dominant defense. USC's offense loses only one starter off this year's unit, which showed Thursday it had plenty of firepower.

Next year, if Sanchez returns, it will be the offense's football team. Sanchez will be the guy to navigate this team through a much more difficult schedule with road games at Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oregon and Cal - all bowl teams this season.

It might take performances like Sanchez's big day at the Rose Bowl - 28-of-35 passing for 413 yards - if USC wants to navigate it way back into a BCS Bowl game, perhaps even the national championship should USC stay the course.

Sanchez, by all accounts, loves to win. You can see it on his face when he connects with a receiver for a touchdown pass. Even more so, you can see it on his face when he just misses.

After USC was forced to punt leading by 21 midway through the fourth quarter, cameras cut to a dejected Sanchez on the sidelines - UP BY 21. Sanchez celebrated with the same vigor after finding Johnson for the second time earlier in the quarter.

His intensity and intangibles are the reasons why Pete Carroll handed the keys to his offense to Sanchez before his junior year. Imagine the comfort Carroll would have next year with Sanchez at the helm.

Keep in mind, new offensive coordinator John Morton will be in his first year in the position, and whoever coaches USC's quarterbacks would much rather inherit a veteran under center.

Now, is Sanchez ready for the NFL? Maybe. He's made 16 starts, winning 14 of the games. He's impressed scouts with big games in big games, like he did Thursday when he was named the offensive MVP of the Rose Bowl.

If he came back, Sanchez could add to his trophy closet. Maybe he wins a Heisman or maybe he wins a national title.

It all starts with him saying he'll be back.

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