USC Football: Matt Barkley and 5 Trojans Headed for NFL Success
So after the Trojans hoist that crystal ball signifying their first national championship in the Lane Kiffin era, there will be still be pressing questions to be answered.
What? You say I am getting way ahead of myself?
Okay, guilty as charged but how else can I sell an article featuring the best six Trojans to be drafted after the upcoming college football season?
Nonetheless, this slide show will take a far too early look at how some of the departing Trojans will perform at the next level.
We know about Barkley, who will be one of the first players taken in next year's draft, but who will join him?
Though fans of the program will be sorry to see them go, here are the next great batch of Trojans to play on Sundays.
No. 5: Wes Horton (Defensive End)
Besides the overall Trojans defense themselves, perhaps the player most affected by Devon Kennard's unfortunate injury is his fellow defensive end, Wes Horton.
Without Kennard coming off of the opposite edge, defensive coaches will be able to key on Horton, thus compromising his effectiveness on a thin Trojan defensive line.
Horton will still be heard from because he is a beast who's time has come, but the stats that otherwise would have been there with Kennard's presence will now be reduced.
This will cost Horton in the NFL draft next year where he will likely be a fifth-round prospect, but once he gets there, he will be a very serviceable player for whatever team is smart enough to take a chance on him.
No. 4: Isiah Wiley (Cornerback)
This may be somewhat of a reach but 6'1", 190-pound cornerbacks with good technique don't grow on trees.
Isiah Wiley, who will only have two years in the Trojans' system, has come a long way in the short time he has been with the men of Troy.
Wiley's hard work and talent paid off last year and by the last half of the season, Wiley had secured a starting spot opposite Nickell Robey and stuck for the duration of the campaign.
If Wiley continues to progress, he can be a second or third round draft choice next year.
No. 3: T.J. McDonald (Safety)
Like Matt Barkley, safety T.J. McDonald returned for his senior season with a lot to prove.
Beyond his aspirations for the team, McDonald has to prove that he can defend the pass and eliminate silly personal fouls.
Already a great run supporting safety, if McDonald can find a bit more consistency overall, he can drive his stock through the roof.
Fabulously talented, McDonald can creep into the first round with just a little improvement.
No. 2: Khaled Holmes (Center)
Probably the most talented center in the nation and certainly the most intelligent, Khaled Holmes is one of those guys whose value to the team is almost immeasurable.
At 6'4", 305 lbs, Holmes is only entering his second year at the position but you wouldn't know it by his play.
Solid in both the pass and the run, Holmes is also the offensive line general who gets everyone in the right blocking schemes.
With Holmes out there, it is almost like having a coach on the field and that type of value will be appreciated at the next level.
Look for Khaled Holmes to be a first round choice albeit lower in the round.
No. 1: Robert Woods (Wide Receiver)
At the risk of incurring the wrath of the Trojan faithful, this may very well be All-American wide receiver Robert Woods' last season in the cardinal and gold.
Despite conjecture by the record setting flanker that he may consider coming back for his senior season, chances are that the true junior will seek his fame and fortune plying his wares for pay next year.
Though he has benefited immensely from Barkley, there is no doubt that Woods has "star" written all over him at the next level.
After going for 111 receptions in 2011 on a bum ankle, offseason surgery has yet to find Woods operating at 100 percent, but that makes his performance last year all the more exceptional.
Woods, if healthy, should be a high first round draft choice and his skill set will make some quarterback very happy.
And Finally, Matt Barkley (Quarterback)
When Matt Barkley takes his final snap for the cardinal and gold, many fans will be suppressing a large lump in their throats.
One would have to look long and hard to find a Trojan who has meant more to this program than the blond-haired gunslinger from Mater Dei High School in Orange County (Santa Ana) CA.
Jaw firmly set with determination, Barkley spent his sophomore and junior years calmly guiding the Trojans through some of their darkest days and did it all with a smile, passionate about his team and never wavering in his effort to return USC to its glory.
As if that wasn't enough, Barkley then turned his back on NFL millions to take care of his "unfinished business" in 2012.
And speaking of the NFL, Barkley, who was ready in 2011, should be primed for a lottery pick in 2012.
Once he gets there, Barkley will be an outstanding quarterback, someone that any team can count on to lead them through thick and thin.
And if you don't believe me, just ask any Trojan fan.
Certainly, there are other Trojans who could have (and possibly should have) made this list as well.
Tailback Curtis (Moody) McNeal, though small (5'8", 190 lbs) is getting better by the year and, if he improves on his 1000-plus yard production of last year, could wind up being next year's poor man's version of Darren Sproles in the NFL.
Safety Jawanza Starling could have a very nice year and use that as a springboard for draft consideration as well.
And of course, Penn State running back transfer Silas Redd could very well leave after a single season at USC and, if he does, he will draw much interest from the pro league.
One final disclaimer is that juniors who may or may not declare (with the exception of Woods and Redd) are not included in this list as I am not a prognosticator of their professional intentions.
This list includes a variety of great Trojans, all of whom will be missed greatly when they take their games to the next level.
And if they perform there the way they have for the men of Troy, they will make their future teams very happy indeed.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!