Matt Leinart QB 6'5 225 USC
By: Robert Davis
What can you say about Matt Leinart? He will go down as one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all time. In three seasons as a starter at USC, he had a combined record of 37-2, including 34 straight victories. He took over the helm as a sophomore in 2003 for Heisman Trophy Winner Carson Palmer, and exceeded all expectations. On the year, Leinart completed just over 63% of his passes for 3,556 yards, and an amazing 38/9 TD/INT ratio. USC earned a share of the National Title in 2003, thanks in large part to Leinart's success. As a junior, he was even better. The eventual Heisman Trophy winner finished the year with 3,322 yards and 33 TD's to just six interceptions, while completing 65% of his passes. USC this time won the National Title outright. Leinart turned down the NFL and returned for his senior year with a shot to become just the second person to win two Heismans and be a part of the first 3-time National Champions. As it turned out, his backfield mate Reggie Bush stole the show on his way to the Heisman, and USC lost to Texas in the title game 41-38. But Leinart had another great season. He became a 3-time All American after completing 65.7% of his passes for 3,815 yards and 28 touchdowns to just eight interceptions. 3-time AA, one Heisman, Two National Titles, and a 37-2 career record. That's not a bad three year stretch.
Leinart is one of the most polished passers to come out of the college ranks since Peyton Manning. His ability to read defenses is second to none at the college level. USC even gave him the opportunity to call audibles at the line of scrimmage any time he wanted because of his ability to see what was developing. He has excellent timing with his receivers, and can put the ball on the money in any situation. His career completion percentage is just under 65%. Leinart has excellent touch and can float it in, or sling it into coverage if needed. He is also a good athlete for a player his size, and shows solid mobility inside the pocket. He is not a threat to run it, though he did run for six touchdowns this year, but he can avoid the rush and throw on the run once outside the pocket. What sets Leinart apart though is his leadership ability. He's played in big games every year, and more often than not, he came out on top. He will not make mistakes to cost you the game, and comes through when the game is on the line.
There is nothing physically that stands out about Leinart. He can make any throw needed, but he does not have a cannon. He is mobile, but he's not a standout athlete and is not a threat to tuck it. There were some times this year where he let his passes sail, and he won't be allowed to do that in the NFL. He has the arm strength to get the ball into coverage, he just needs to do it more often. In the NFL, a lot of the touch passes he throws will not be completed. Also, as a marked man this year, Leinart took a couple late hits to the head, and came up a little foggy at times. Just as a precaution, those slight concussions will be checked out.
Matt Leinart is the Tom Brady of college football. He just wins. He does not wow you with his physical talent and may not lead the league in any statistical category, but he puts you in position to win, and comes out on top. He has a very bright future in the NFL. He had the chance to go #1 overall last year but chose to return to school. Now, he's a top three lock, but does not look like the #1 pick because his teammate Reggie Bush is in the draft. No matter where he goes, Leinart should have an excellent NFL career.
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