Adv16-17

Updated: August 16, 2003, 2:40 PM ET

LOS ANGELES -- Matt Leinart is ready to step in at Southern California. The same goes for Brock Berlin at Miami, Matt Kegel at Washington State and Chance Mock at Texas.

Who are these guys?

They're the starting quarterbacks at their respective schools entering the 2003 season, replacing a quartet of standout signal-callers who manned the position with excellence in recent years.

"That's the fun part of coaching college football -- you don't have a Steve Young for 10 years," USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. "You have to have another guy ready."

Whether or not Leinart, Berlin, Kegel and Mock can do the job will soon be known.

If not, someone else will get a shot.

A third-year sophomore, Leinart succeeds Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer. The first pass Leinart throws Aug. 30 in the season-opener at Auburn will be the first of his career.

"I've sat the last two years behind Carson -- it's finally my turn to step in there and fill his shoes," said Leinart, who like Palmer is tall and rangy. "The last two years were like a blessing in disguise."

Berlin, a fourth-year junior, didn't play last season after transferring from Florida to Miami. He follows Ken Dorsey -- third in the Heisman voting two years ago and fifth last year.

"I don't think it is realistic to think that he'll come in and be Ken Dorsey," Miami coach Larry Coker said. "I think potentially he has tremendous upside. But Brock has had 15 days of coaching in our offense; Ken had four years. That's a tremendous difference."

Kegel, a fifth-year senior, has extensive experience for a career backup, having completed 87 of 174 passes for 1,035 yards.

"Now, it's my show," Kegel said. "I knew my chance would come, I would have one year. I just cherish the upcoming year. Replacing a guy like Jason Gesser is very hard. If I can put the offense in a position to score points, I'll be doing my job."

Mock, a junior who has thrown nine passes in his career, steps in for Chris Simms.

"Chance Mock has been around three years," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "He's learned from (Major) Applewhite, he's learned from Chris. He waited his turn, he knows the offense, he understands the pressure of this position at this school."

Leinart said he understands the pressure, too.

And he learned a lot just by watching Palmer, especially in terms of leadership.

"It was his presence and how he carried himself," Leinart said. "Our personalities are very similar. He's mellow, laid back and so am I -- more a leader by example than a rah-rah guy.

"Now I kind of realize when you're in that position what you're going through."

And what has Palmer told him?

"Good luck and have fun," Leinart said.

Regarding the pressure he'll face, Leinart said: "There's always pressure. You can't really think about it. I can only practice and play one day at a time, take it day-by-day, be consistent. I'm going to make mistakes, you've got to bounce back from that."

One thing that figures to be a big help is the talent around him. The Trojans, who won their final eight games last year, are experienced at every position except quarterback and running back.

And very talented.

"He doesn't have to be Carson Palmer," Chow said. "We hope he can be efficient, run our offense. He doesn't have to be spectacular."

Wide receiver Mike Williams, who isn't among USC's listed 14 returning starters despite catching 81 passes for 1,265 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman last year, believes too big a deal is being made about USC's inexperience at quarterback.

"Carson left them with a lot of experience, how to handle experiences in the games," Williams said. "Everyone else on our offense is working that much harder to relieve any pressure on our quarterbacks. We have confidence in them, they have confidence in us. We know the guy who does get the start at Auburn will be ready to go."

Barring the unforeseen, that guy will be Leinart.

"Leinart has come out here in great command of what we're doing," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "He's been in the system for a couple years, he knows what's going on. That's a plus for us.

"I think that the decision to make him the starter helped him, helped him regain a little bit of the swagger."

A 6-foot-5, 225-pound left-hander, Leinart entered preseason practice as the listed starter. Four others are competing for playing time including highly regarded freshman John David Booty.

"I'm not going to look over my shoulder at all," Leinart said. "I'll do what I have to do -- go out there and compete."

Regarding Booty, Leinart said: "I'm going to help him, but I've got a job to do."

Booty is believed to be the first player to graduate a year early from high school and enroll at a major Division I-A university.

He passed for 8,474 yards and 88 touchdowns in leading Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport to the Class 5A Louisiana state title the past two years.

"I'm behind the other quarterbacks, there's no question," Booty said. "I don't expect to play until I prove myself. We have great quarterbacks and great leaders. Our guys are going to make plays. Our team is so good, you don't have to be a star.

"I'm a freshman, I'm supposed to be a freshman. If I redshirt, I redshirt. They're not going to throw me out there until I'm ready."

That could be sooner than later if Leinart doesn't do the job.

"Who knows? I think there's a good chance he will," Chow replied when asked if Booty might play this season. "There's no question that young man has a major college career in front of him."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index