As USC prepares to meet Georgia Tech in El Paso on New Year's Eve for the 2012 Sun Bowl, many fans are looking ahead. What’s in store for the Trojan seniors entering the draft? Which juniors will declare early and opt to play on Sundays in 2013 instead of Saturdays in sunny, balmy Los Angeles? How will the 2013 recruiting class shape up and shake out?
All of these topics will be addressed over the next week, starting with the Trojan seniors graduating.
There are 20 seniors on the current Trojan squad including the injured DE Devon Kennard, who will be back in 2013 after having sat out the entire 2012 season. Backup center Abe Markowitz is petitioning the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility, but if granted, he will have to play someplace other than USC.
Markowitz had hoped to return to USC for a sixth season on an NCAA waiver because of injuries he sustained early in his Trojan career. With USC still struggling under scholarship reductions, he was informed by head coach Lane Kiffin that there would not be a scholarship available to him in 2013. While Markowitz hoped to return as a walk-on, the center discovered that NCAA rules only permit a waiver athlete to compete on a scholarship.
Let’s take a look at the full list of USC's Class of 2013 football players and then focus in on five players with promising NFL draft futures—two tonight and three tomorrow.
USC Class of 2013
Matt Barkley – QB
T.J. McDonald – S
Emon Saee – QB (RS Sr)
John Manoogian – QB (RS Sr)
Drew McAllister – S
Eric Matranga – WR
Brian Baucham – CB (RS Sr)
Tony Burnett - LB (RS Sr)
Kyle Negrete – P (RS Sr)
Robert Mojica – TB
Chandler Larsen - FB/TE (RS Sr)
Doug Scott – LB (RS Sr)
Abe Markowitz – C (RS Sr)
Dallas Kelley – LB
Jeremy Galten – OT/OG
Khaled Holmes – C (RS Sr)
Wes Horton –DE (RS Sr)
As I wrote on Tuesday, Matt Barkley should fare very well in the upcoming NFL draft—but he won’t go as the overall No. 1 pick. In fact, he’s unlikely to go in the top 10. At 6’2" and 220 pounds, he is just a bit undersized and his arm strength has always been questioned by draft analysts. He is likely to go in the top 25 to a team that doesn’t have an immediate need for the next fresh, young QB, so he'll have time to develop.
Where Barkley excels is in intelligence and character, which are often underrated on the football field and should not be, especially when it comes to the quarterback position. (See: Michael Vick and Vince Young for prime examples of this.)
Barkley’s arm strength may be questioned by some, but you cannot argue with his footwork and ball placement. When Kiffin actually manages to call a long pass for him, Barkley can deliver it, in traffic, to one of his talented receivers. His drop off in 2012, in my opinion, is completely due to the twin factors of a less experienced and thinner O-Line and Lane Kiffin’s atrocious offensive play-calling.
Matt Barkley should fare better in his NFL career than recent USC QBs who’ve been drafted.
T.J. McDonald is a phenomenal athlete who brings a lot of power at the tackle point. He has been a strong player at safety for USC for his entire career. He shows great intuition and an ability to read the opponent’s offense, remaining a step ahead of the rest of his defense.
McDonald is one of the best college safeties in the country, and despite my criticism of Monte Kiffin, he has been playing in a Kiffin secondary, which is not easy, requires a bit more intelligence and study, and is more complicated than 80 percent or more of most other college defenses.