Matt Barkley's Decision to Return to USC in 2012 Is Smart

Dan Hope@Dan_HopeContributor IIIDecember 22, 2011

PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 09:  Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans passes the ball during their game against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

At his press conference on Thursday, Dec. 22 to announce his decision on whether he would declare for the 2012 NFL draft, Matt Barkley said, "it is my dream to play quarterback in the NFL, and I intend to make that dream a reality." However, he will not be doing so until 2013.

Matt Barkley, the starting quarterback for the University of Southern California football team, announced on Thursday that he would return to play his senior season in 2012.

It was clear that Barkley thought extensively over his decision, and the allure of the National Football League certainly had to be a swaying factor. If Barkley was to declare for the 2012 NFL draft, he would have been among the top players drafted. In my opinion, he is just as good a prospect as Stanford’s Andrew Luck, and he would have ended up selected in the draft’s first two picks.

As a high draft pick, Barkley could have easily jumped at the money and fame, and would not have gone wrong in declaring. That said, he has made a tremendous decision in returning to play his senior season.

Due to sanctions levied against the University of Southern California football program by the NCAA in response to improper benefits received by former Trojans running back Reggie Bush, the Trojans have been banned from the postseason for the past two years. That has prevented Barkley from having the chance to lead his Trojans to a Pac-12 Championship and/or a BCS bowl.

By returning for his senior season, Barkley will have a chance. While two of the Trojans’ top players, left tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry, have decided to declare for the 2012 NFL draft, strong safety T.J. McDonald is returning for his senior season. The Trojans have many other star talents returning as well, including wide receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee and cornerback Nickell Robey.

With star quarterback Andrew Luck leaving Stanford, and star running back LaMichael James leaving Oregon, the Trojans will be the early favorites to be Pac-12 champions in 2012. That said, with Barkley being possibly the nation’s best returning quarterback (if Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III also returns to school for his senior season, he would have something to say about that), the Trojans will also be in the mix for a national championship run.

Returning not only gives Barkley a great chance at glory with the USC Trojans, but a great chance at individual glory as well. Barkley will be one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012, and with the Trojans being bowl-eligible, he should get more national attention than he did in the 2011 season.

Additionally, Barkley becomes the overwhelming early favorite to be the first player selected in the 2013 NFL draft. Much like Andrew Luck has had the top spot in the draft cemented for quite some time, Barkley could very well do the same with the top spot in next year’s draft if he starts out his senior season strong. Barkley is a true franchise quarterback at the next level, and well worth being selected with a No. 1 overall draft pick.

It is easy to see why Barkley has made the decision to return for his senior season. Some might say he is passing up the chance at money and fame, but he is only delaying that opportunity for one year.

In that year, Barkley will have the potential of being a national champion and/or a Heisman Trophy winner, while playing for one of the nation’s premier college football programs. At the end of that year, Barkley is likely to be the first player selected in the 2013 NFL draft, which was unlikely to happen in 2012 due to the presence of Andrew Luck.

One more aspect that is easy to overlook is that college is a good place to be. At the moment he stated that he planned to play for the Trojans next season, the crowd of Trojans supporters erupted, and the band began playing the famed USC fight song. Returning also gives Barkley additional time to finish up his collegiate degree, and enjoy the college atmosphere. Barkley should enjoy his extra year in Los Angeles, and have no regrets about this decision.

NFL fans should look forward to watching Matt Barkley in 2013, but in 2012, enjoy watching him play college football, as he leads USC on a pursuit of a national championship in the first year following their postseason ban.

Thanks for reading!

For more on college football and the 2012 NFL draft, follow me on Twitter @Dan_Hope.