Bellotti doesn’t see it as a problem

Times Staff Writer

Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti, monitoring USC’s quarterback situation from afar, described it Tuesday as “a nice dilemma” rather than a controversy for the ninth-ranked Trojans.

Sophomore Mark Sanchez has started the last two games in place of senior John David Booty, who is trying to come back from a broken right middle finger.

“They both can win and if they are both healthy there are some choices to be made,” Bellotti said.


Though Coach Pete Carroll said again that he was in no hurry to make a decision, Sanchez increasingly appears to be the choice to start against the fifth-ranked Ducks on Saturday at Autzen Stadium.

Booty threw passes for the first time since warm-ups for last Saturday’s game at Notre Dame. Forsaking the glove he used to protect his finger last week, Booty threw short, mid-range and deep balls with good accuracy.

Carroll, however, said Booty “wasn’t all the way back. This is not John at his best.”

Booty said the pain in his finger “really wasn’t that bad.” He is eager to see how the finger responds today and Thursday.

“If it reacts badly and you try to go, you keep setting yourself back further and further -- that’s not something I want to do,” he said.

Sanchez continued to take nearly all of the first-team repetitions as he prepared to build on last week’s impressive performance against Notre Dame.

“I’m as motivated as I can be,” he said. “Once you get a taste of it you never want to stop.”


USC hoped that junior guard Chilo Rachal and All-American senior tackle Sam Baker would be sound to start against Oregon, but both suffered setbacks.

Rachal, who has missed three games because of a right knee injury suffered against Washington, slammed his helmet to the ground during a drill and retired to the trainer’s table for the rest of the workout. Afterward, Carroll and offensive line coach Pat Ruel counseled Rachal on the field.

“He lost it because he could feel his leg more than he wanted to,” Carroll said. “He’s just frustrated because he’s been out so long. We were just trying to calm him down.”

Rachal said his knee was fine but his right calf was sore.

“It was the first practice when I did that much. I just put a lot of pressure on myself,” he said.

Said Ruel: “Sometimes you have to learn how to feel comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s really the issue.”

Baker did only a few drills because of a hamstring injury that forced him to miss most of the last two games and appears to be more serious than the strain it has been described as.

“I’m a little frustrated right now,” he said.

Asked if it was a tear rather than a strain, Baker said, “I really don’t know. We didn’t MRI it . . . It was one of those things. I’d just like to get back and play.”

Starting safety Kevin Ellison was absent from practice because he had to attend a class, Carroll said. . . . Former Trojans and NFL receiver Johnnie Morton attended practice and worked with freshman Ronald Johnson after the workout. . . . Bellotti on what uniform combination the Ducks would wear against the Trojans: “I don’t know. That’s usually a Thursday decision. Somebody told me last week that there are 384 combinations, so I have the pinwheel chart on the wall. I just throw a dart at it.”