USC QB Matt Barkley has been the Trojans' starter since the first game of his freshman year except for a few games when injured.
The Trojans are 23-8 in games he has played and Barkley has improved in each season. However, he has a reputation for not finishing games or seasons strong.
Barkley may be a late first-round NFL draft selection after this season if he decides to leave early instead of returning for his senior year. He reiterated last week that he will wait until the end of the year to decide to make himself available.
Barkley appeared on The Dan Patrick Show Tuesday and commented on the possibility of leaving for the NFL early:
I still have a season to play. It’s a lot more than just football. It’s a family decision as much as a business decision. We really have something special with our team. A lot of our guys on offense will be back. A lot of pros in both. It will be a tough decision.
Stanford QB Andrew Luck had a similar decision to make last season and he decided to return for his fourth year for many of the same reasons that apply to Barkley.
Here are the 10 reasons that it would be better for Matt Barkley to stay at USC for his final season.
Luck could have been the No. 1 draft pick in 2011 and may have received $65 million like Sam Bradford.
He knew that the NFL collective bargaining agreement was being negotiated and it was unlikely that rookies would receive huge monetary deals.
At the time, some thought he might receive $15 million if he delayed to the 2012 draft, a loss of $50 million.
Luck’s decision was based on finishing his architectural design degree, be part of a team that will be highly ranked in 2011 and enjoy Palo Alto.
He knew Jim Harbaugh might leave Stanford and that didn’t affect his decision. He also wanted to finish with the guys in his recruiting class and finish four years of college, which he thought was normal.
Barkley will not be drafted No. 1 in 2012, but he may get drafted in the first round.
Given the rookie salary limits in the new NFL collective bargaining agreement he will not face the huge financial loss Luck had to consider.
However, many of the other reasons and some additional considerations should affect his decision.
In the article “5 Stars who have NFL Bust Written all over Them,” several mechanic flaws about Barkley are discussed.
The writer claims there are NFL scouting reports that Barkley holds the ball low near his waist, which adds time to his release, a wide stance and hop impacts his ability to drive the football forward as he throws, has a tendency to throw off his back foot when pressured and his feet are frequently facing the sidelines instead of the target when lining up to throw.
If valid, none of these appear difficult to fix. However, these weaknesses could impact his draft place and it would be better to fix them during the next year so he is ready for the NFL.
An NFL scouting report says Barkley is “shorter than preferred and doesn’t possess an elite arm.” Weaknesses include a tendency to throw slightly behind receivers running crossing routes from his right to his left, struggles hitting receivers in stride on the deep ball, some deep passes can hang too long and slightly above-average arm strength.
Michael Lev of the Orange County Register reported:
NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock doesn't generally discuss underclassmen until they have declared but did offer this about Barkley's pro prospects: "He's 6-2, not a 6-5 Carson Palmer. He has pretty good feet, an above-average arm and understands the game. He's clean off the field. There's a lot to like about this kid."
However, Barkley has been inconsistent at times. He established a USC record for passing yards and total offense against Arizona after his worst game against Arizona State. After the record-setting game against the Wildcats, he misfired on some big plays against Cal and coach Lane Kiffin attributed them to mechanical issues.
Barkley wants to be the best, as ESPN’s Ted Miller reported last April. He said, “Every quarterback wants to be the best at what they do. When I hear their name [Luck, Foles, Locker], I’m always trying to one-up them.”
Waiting a year will surely make Barkley more ready for the NFL than leaving early, and put him in the best position to be the type of quarterback that he envisions.
Marcus Allen told me he does not like the three-year college football rule. He said, “I would also like to see the kids stay in school four years.”
Barkley is an excellent student and his education is important to him. Like Luck and other top college quarterbacks who returned for their senior year, he should want to finish his degree at USC.
Sure, he could return to USC in future years and finish it, but is that what Barkley wants?
It wasn’t for past great USC quarterbacks Pat Haden, Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer, and it certainly wasn’t what Andrew Luck wanted.
Barkley was the first sophomore team captain at USC. He has been the team leader addressing the NCAA sanctions since they were announced in June 2010.
He may be the best leader the USC football program has ever produced.
Besides Barkley, there are at least three other USC juniors who may leave early for the NFL.
OT Matt Kalil is currently a top-three mock draft choice and he will likely leave. The other two, DE Nick Perry and safety T.J. McDonald, will likely get drafted in the second round.
If Barkley decides to stay at USC, Perry and McDonald may return also. That could greatly affect the Trojans' prospects for a special 2012 season.
Barkley is already the fifth-leading USC quarterback and could break many USC passing records, including Carson Palmer’s total passing yardage (11,818).
Barkley currently has 7,532 passing yards. Assuming he finishes 2011 averaging the same as the first seven games and continues this through 2012, he will end up with 12,690 yards.
He could become the greatest player to come out of USC if the rest of his considerations are fulfilled.
USC QB Matt Leinart at the FedEx Orange Bowl 2005
The NCAA took away Barkley’s opportunity to play in a bowl game in his sophomore and junior seasons.
If he returns to USC, the Trojans will likely make it to a BCS bowl game.
That is a far better way to leave USC than a victory over a failing UCLA football program.
Prior to the 2011 football season, it seemed clear the USC football team could be very special in 2012.
The Trojans have a legitimate shot at the national championship while they are in the middle of the second-worst NCAA sanctions in history, but this will require Barkley and most of the other juniors who could leave early for the NFL to stay.
That would send a message to the NCAA about punishing innocent athletes and put Barkley and his teammates in Trojan lore forever.
ESPN’s Ted Miller also reported, “Barkley is also honest enough to admit that he wants to eclipse the other Pac-12 quarterbacks and, yes, he wants to push into the Heisman discussion.”
Barkley said, “You grow up wanting to be the best and the Heisman Trophy is the mark of the best player in the country. So, yes, I’ve dreamed of that. It’s kind of what you expect here.”
Coach Kiffin was asked what makes Barkley so different and said:
I don't know that he's really different. We've been fortunate to have a couple great ones here, couple Heisman winners so I think he's right in the lines of them. He prepares as well as any of them ever have and his focus for the game and want to be great is as good as any of them. I just think he does everything right. Where I think maybe there was a flaw in somebody that you're always trying to change, he really just does every aspect of what you want on and off the field, right.
Barkley will not win the Heisman Trophy in 2011, but he could be the leader for the award in 2012.
If USC has the success that is likely next season, it is hard to imagine any other player who has a better chance.
Stanford QB Andrew Luck is the likely No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Arizona's Nick Foles are also quarterbacks eligible to turn pro.
Some scouts don’t see Barkley as an elite QB in the NFL because he is not a tall guy, doesn’t have a cannon for an arm and sometimes has accuracy problems on longer throws.
He could go towards the end of the first round in 2012.
Other quarterbacks have matured by spending four years in a college program. Examples include Sam Bradford, now with the St. Louis Rams, and Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Bradford was the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft and a fourth-year junior in 2009. Peyton Manning also made the same decision in 1997 to return for his senior year and was drafted No. 1 in 1998.
Of course, it didn’t work out as well for former USC QB Matt Leinart, but his situation in the NFL may not have been any better and he needed elbow surgery after his junior year.
On the other hand, Mark Sanchez joined the New York Jets after his junior season and has done well. However, he enjoyed a unique situation with the Jets where they don’t expect a lot from the quarterback.
Another example is Carson Palmer, who also started in his freshman year, and benefited from a better OL his senior year to win the Heisman Trophy in 2002 and become the No. 1 draft pick in 2003.
The Trojans will also have a better OL in 2012 based on the progress this year and recruiting. Barkley and the USC offense will be able to get the most out of all their skill players who also will be more experienced in 2012. This could be one of the best offenses in history.
The USC football program did not deserve most of the sanctions from the hypocritical and corrupt NCAA and its sanctimonious henchman, Paul Dee.
Certainly none of the current USC football players deserve any penalty and yet they were the ones most punished, deprived of bowl games the past two seasons.
Players were allowed to transfer without sitting out a year, creating a lack of scholarship players, which impacted practices and affected games.
If USC has the type of season that is possible in 2012, the year after bowl sanctions and during the first year of 10 scholarship reductions, it will be done in spite of the NCAA.
That will feel really, really good for a very long time.
As Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times stated recently, one more year for Matt Barkley “could be magical.”
He said, “The prospect of a shot at the national title and improving his draft position next season could be a strong inducement for him to hang around.”
Plaschke forgot to mention the Heisman Trophy and some of the other reasons discussed in this article.
So, the question for Matt Barkley is, “What do I want to do?”
Go to the NFL now or be a four-year starter, three-time captain, set the USC passing records with a chance at the national championship, Heisman Trophy and first pick of the draft?
Marcus Allen has been my favorite Trojan football player the past 30 years since watching him play four years during my USC MBA program.
If Barkley stays, he will replace Allen because of everything he has done to help USC during very difficult times for four years.