USC Football: Can Matt Barkley Surpass 4,000 Passing Yards in 2012?
When USC Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley uttered his famous "unfinished business" declaration at his press conference to announce his football future last year, he immediately became the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy in 2012.
And while personal awards weren't Barkley's focus in determining his return to USC, for the Trojans to succeed this year, it will require a big year from him.
But how big?
This slideshow will look at how successful he can be this year and whether or not Barkley can surpass the magic number of 4,000 yards passing.
Certainly, he has a lot of things going for him in this quest, including a marvelous team that surrounds him.
Can Barkley break the 4,000-yard barrier?
Let's find out.
Barkley Will Benefit from a Full Season of Curtis McNeal at Running Back
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Last year, the Trojans running game wasn't horrible (they gained just under 2,000 yards as a team), but it also wasn't consistent.
That is, until Curtis McNeal became the featured back about halfway into the season.
After McNeal's entrance, he became the workhorse of the backfield for USC, and the results were startling.
All the diminutive back did was average almost seven yards a carry as he wound up with 1,005 yards in limited action.
Now, the Trojans will open the season with McNeal as the main "toter of the rock," and opposing defenses will have to pay attention to USC's running game, or pay the price.
That can only help Barkley get to 4,000 yards passing and beyond.
Look for the Tight Ends to Be Even More Involved
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As if Barkley isn't blessed with the top wide receiver tandem in the nation (more on them later), his embarrassment of receiving riches also includes a pair of monster tight ends.
Last year, Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer combined at the tight end position for 41 receptions and nine touchdowns.
And did I mention they were freshmen in 2011?
Now a year more seasoned, both of these guys are positioned for breakout seasons in 2012.
With defenses rightfully focused on the wideouts, both Telfer and Grimble should get a lot of looks from Barkley, who can be very successful with either of them as a third option should other guys be covered.
The Offensive Line Could Be Even Better This Year Than Last
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Yes, I know left tackle Matt Kalil is no longer on the team after being the fourth overall pick in this year's NFL draft.
And sure, the 2011 offensive line led the nation in fewest sacks allowed.
I get it.
But let's not forget that last year the Trojans were replacing three starters and had a first-year center (Khaled Holmes) who played guard the year before.
Now USC welcomes back four seasoned starters and the guy replacing Kalil, Aundrey Walker, is going to be a first-round draft choice in a couple of years.
When all is said and done, there should be very little in the way of a drop-off from last year and, gulp, they might be even better.
Barkley will have to remain upright to get to 4,000 yards passing this season. This O-line will see to that.
Robert Woods and Marqise Lee Are the Finest Wide Receiver Tandem in the Nation
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It's almost unfair that a truly great quarterback such as Matt Barkley gets to throw to the most prolific pair of returning receivers in the nation.
Unfair or not, that is what Barkley has at his disposal as he enters this season with Robert Woods and Marqise Lee to play catch with.
Woods broke the Pac-12 record with 111 receptions last year, and he did it with a bum ankle that required surgery in the offseason. Imagine what he could do with a pair of healthy pins.
Meanwhile, true freshman Lee took the college football world by storm when he caught 73 passes for more than 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Just for kicks, Barkley also will have George Farmer, Victor Blackwell and De'Von Flournoy to throw to when Lee and Woods need a breather.
And true freshman Nelson Agholor has already impressed his fellow Trojans with his athleticism as well.
Sounds like a recipe for 4,000-plus yards to me...
Lane Kiffin Will Open Up the Playbook and Give Barkley Even More Responsibility
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Around the holiday season, Matt Barkley announced his return for the Trojans' 2012 season, and in doing so, it represented one of the best gifts a head coach could ever hope to receive from one of his players.
In return, Lane Kiffin immediately suggested that Barkley would become a more active participant in the offense.
In "coach speak," that means No. 7 will be calling some of his own plays and will be given greater latitude to change plays at the line of scrimmage.
What this really means for the Trojans is that, as Barkley strolls up to the line of scrimmage surrounded by some of the finest skill players in the nation, he can check off, change "hot reads" and exploit what the defense gives to him to his heart's content.
For opposing defensive coordinators, it will mean a lot of sleepless nights.
What may be lost in all of this is the magnitude of Kiffin surrendering any portion of the offense, especially when it comes to play-calling.
To say Kiffin is a control freak when it comes to game planning is stating the bloody obvious. Of course, as nice of a reciprocal gesture as this is, it is also self-serving; Kiffin knows his confidence is borne of the knowledge that he has a truly special signal-caller leading the way.
USC's offense will pave the way for the Trojans' national championship hopes.
Investing Barkley with more responsibility in the offense will not only get them there but it also will be a large reason why he goes for more than 4,000 yards passing this year.
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Whether or not Matt Barkley passes for more than 4,000 yards or wins a Heisman Trophy means little to the quarterback himself.
In returning for his senior year, the quarterback made it perfectly clear what his motivation was when he turned his back on NFL riches for one more year with the Trojans.
It was to vie for conference and national championship honors—not personal accolades.
Still, in order to reach those team goals, Barkley will have to achieve some personal milestones, and one of those may be for him to pass for more than 4,000 yards.
After passing for almost 3,600 yards last season, that lofty number certainly seems attainable.
But Barkley and legions of Trojan fans would gladly give that up to raise the crystal football at the end of the the last game of the year.
In other words, put the finishing touch on that "unfinished business."