USC Trojans Football: What Is Matt Barkley's Legacy?

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USC Trojans Football: What Is Matt Barkley's Legacy?
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Lane Kiffin announced on Wednesday that four-year starting quarterback Matt Barkley will not play in the Hyundai Sun Bowl, which means Barkley's career at USC has ended.

The senior signal caller for USC has been sidelined since suffering a shoulder injury late in the fourth quarter of the November 17 USC loss to rival UCLA. With redshirt freshman Max Wittek now taking center stage, now is the perfect time to address the overall legacy Barkley leaves at USC.

Beginning with his high school days at the prestigious California powerhouse Mater Dei, Matt Barkley was anointed the next elite quarterback for USC. Foregoing his second semester of his high school senior year, Barkley immediately started college in the spring in order to win the starting job. 

After beating out the likes of Mitch Mustain and Aaron Corp for the starting spot, Barkley was the first true freshman quarterback to start the season opener in USC history. 

Barkley started his career about as illustriously as Trojan fans could have hoped. Winning his first six games as a starter, including a huge road win over Ohio State, Barkley stood in uncharted territory.

Expectations rose for his sophomore season before NCAA sanctions trounced the program. After a tumultuous offseason in early 2010 that left the USC football program decimated for numerous seasons, Matt Barkley decided not to transfer. Instead, he stuck with his childhood dream school. 

After the NCAA punished USC, Pete Carroll left USC for the Seattle Seahawks. Lane Kiffin, with years of experience under Carroll at USC, was the new head coach for the Men of Troy.  

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

 

Fans thought USC could survive a troubling situation, in large part due to the leadership of sophomore quarterback Barkley. After a relatively successful season in 2010 where Barkley led the team to a record of 8-5 and finished with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, the future looked bright

His draft status began to rise once NFL Scouts started noticing the arm strength, intelligence and poise he possessed. With a second season under bowl bans in 2011, USC was playing with house money and a confident gunslinger.

Going 10-2 on the season while finishing in the top ten was quite the accomplishment for USC. Matt Barkley passed for career-high 39 touchdowns and a minimal seven interceptions. With big games against ranked foes Stanford and Oregon, Barkley showcased his greatest gifts on the largest stages.

To add even more hype for 2012, in what fans called the Trojans bowl game, USC annihilated UCLA 50-0 behind six touchdowns passes from their signal caller.

After the season, Barkley had a huge decision to make, whether to enter the NFL Draft or return for "unfinished business." In a large spectacle alongside Lane Kiffin and hundreds of Trojan supporters, Matt Barkley declined his draft opportunity, instead deciding to return for his senior season.

From that moment on—whether Barkley wished it or not—USC had lofty expectations of a BCS National Championship. Pundits also placed Barkley as the clear 2012 Heisman favorite. 

The major blemish on Barkley's reputation was most certainly his on-field performance during his senior season. In a 7-4 campaign with Barkley as quarterback, the early season Heisman favorite fell out of the rankings after a quiet season with 36 touchdowns and a career-worst 15 interceptions.

Barkley's relatively poor season highlighted a slew of problems that arose at USC this season. But did those problems blemish his legacy?  

A legacy is defined not only by your actions on the field, but by an entire persona that is carried out every day on and off the field. As a student-athlete, few can compare to what Matt Barkley accomplished at USC. 

Barkley was selected as the winner of the 2012 Wuerffel Award, which is presented to the athlete who best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement. Barkley, a communications major with a 3.21 GPA, was also named a 2012 National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete.

He and 15 of his USC teammates spent five days in Haiti in the spring of 2012 building homes and assisting those in need. He also spent 11 days during 2010 Christmas break in Nigeria visiting orphans, widows, villagers and prisoners, doing construction work, distributing supplies and gifts and sharing daily fellowship. 

Point being, Barkley was a leader on and off the field during his career at USC. He also set passing records across the board during his time as quarterback. Barkley walks away as the Pac-12 career leader in total offense, passing touchdowns and passing yardage. 

He also successfully led the Trojans out of bowl sanctions, giving fans hope for what turned out to be a disappointing season in 2012. It would be difficult to punish a quarterback with that much success, yet sometimes the "what have you done for me lately?" argument can seem quite valid.

When USC fans take a step back and reflect on Barkley's career, they will probably throw out his disappointing games against UCLA, Stanford and Arizona in 2012. The positive impact Barkley had on the program outweighs the strife in the locker room, troubling week-to-week performances and bowl sanctions that still linger.

Barkley is a well-respected figure at USC, who always put team first and his ego second. The man, who became enmeshed by the circumstances surrounding Reggie Bush, fought hard and has left a legacy of success and heroism as a USC Trojans starting quarterback.

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