Coming into the 2012 college football season, it was a well-accepted fact that Matt Barkley was the best quarterback prospect in the nation. However, his play so far this season has indicated differently.
Barkley has looked bad in the Trojans' two losses. He put up huge yardage Saturday against the Arizona Wildcats but threw two costly interceptions that let the Wildcats back into the game for the eventual upset.
It is unlikely Barkley will be the first quarterback off the board in April’s draft, let alone the first overall pick. It can be argued that Geno Smith (before his putrid October), Tyler Bray, A.J. McCarron and Tyler Wilson have all played better than Barkley this season and would be better NFL players.
Barkley has been the signal-caller for USC since he arrived on campus, but the senior quarterback has not progressed since his freshman season and has instead regressed. In his debut season he had only three games where he threw multiple interceptions. Through eight weeks this season, he has already hit that total.
After USC was upset by Stanford earlier this season, Barkley’s decision-making was called into question. Head coach Lane Kiffin spoke on Barkley’s issue in that postgame press conference, saying, “(That was) really unusual by Matt. Probably two of his worst decisions in our three years together on back-to-back plays.”
Another reason that Barkley has lost momentum is the unbelievable talent surrounding him. Penn State transfer Silas Reed was an All-Big Ten selection at running back last year, and receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee were both preseason All-Americans.
Even ESPN personalities Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have Barkley dropping on their draft boards:
Video: Matt Barkley falls on draft boards es.pn/PYVLRC
— ESPN_Pac12blog (@ESPN_Pac12blog) September 20, 2012
Barkley does not have history on his side either. USC quarterbacks have a history of not doing well in the NFL. Mark Sanchez is frequently brought up as one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL, and Matt Leinart and Matt Cassel’s poor play have landed them spots on the pine. Carson Palmer is the only current successful NFL quarterback who attended USC, and even he has gone through some troubles.
The story on Barkley is far from finished, though. The Trojans' real tests come in what should be a preview of the Pac-12 championship game when No. 4 Oregon comes to town and in the last week of the season against No. 5 Notre Dame and its stingy defense. Barkley will have a chance to regain momentum in these games.
What do you think? Is Barkley still an elite prospect? Will he be the first quarterback taken off the board in April's draft? Let us know in the comments below!