Whether to stay or go as far as pursuing the NFL goes is a personal choice. That is to say, as long as the prospect is happy with his decision and the outcome of it all, then he made the right move for himself.
That said, from an NFL stock standpoint, there is a good and bad and a better or worse scenario. For players with plenty of questions to answer, coming back is the smartest thing they can do to elevate their status.
For some guys, however, the league has seen plenty of them to know where they stand. Coming back is an exercise in fighting to maintain the hold versus having warts exposed. Warts come from more intense scrutiny, having more games and more reps and more film poured over. Warts come from critiquing the performances against past production and examining the play of the prospect without familiar pieces in key spots.
For Matt Barkley, his status as one of, if not the, premier quarterbacks in the 2013 draft is not in jeopardy. He won't be sunk by the 2012 season; but plenty was learned about him in the Stanford game, playing without Khaled Holmes. Entering 2012 he was everyone's perfect quarterback, after that game there were things Lane Kiffin's golden armed quarterback had to work on.
U guys saw barkleys limitations tonight.No mobility, non athlete, has to hv things almost perfect around him to be productive
— shaun king (@realshaunking) September 16, 2012
With no Holmes, the Cardinal got a push up the middle that showed Barkley's not as adept at gaining ground from under center and most certainly not the guy you want behind a line that is a bit shaky. Does it mean other quarterbacks have passed him? No. What it means is that status as the for sure number one, a la Andrew Luck, is in jeopardy. Check the highs and lows from the Stanford game to get a look at some of the issues.
And of course that national title and Heisman trophy, which folks had him penciled in for, are no longer his to lose.
A far greater example of an NFL decision gone awry is the Montee Ball, back to Wisconsin decision. Good on him to go back, more power to him. Unfortunately his team is not putting him in a position to be successful and instead of the repeat of last year's remarkable season, what we're seeing is a running back that looks like a regular guy out there toting the ball. Ball is averaging 3.87 yards per carry and already has 93 total carries for 2012. That's 93 carries on his legs, shoulders, head and back—carries that take a physical toll on backs.
Throw in Montee Ball's bizarre offseason where he had a seemingly harmless citation, followed by getting jumped and hospitalized and things are just off for the senior running back. In the NFL, backs are more expendable than any position. More dings on Ball, coupled with a less than elite showing, is a recipe for a drop.
Coming back to school is the kid's choice and as far as his personal satisfaction goes, as long as he is satisfied with it, then it is the right choice. Regarding the NFL, however, there is more of a black and white line of good or bad.
While there are guys like Manti Te'o who prove everything you've seen from them to this point, there are also guys, like Barkley and Ball, who reveal more negatives in coming back than positives.