USC Takes the Matt Barkley Pick for a Spin

Paul PeszkoSenior Writer IAugust 29, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 25: Quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans looks on during the spring game on April 25, 2009 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  The cardinal team won 16-10.  (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)

Is Heritage Hall trying to match wits with the White House?  If so, I think their spin doctors are in need of an immediate transfusion.

With media bombs dropping all over the place from Pete Carroll’s decision to start true freshman Matt Barkley ahead of Aaron Corp, the Trojans felt it necessary to play down Barkley’s penchant for throwing interceptions.  

Here is an excerpt from what they dreamed up at the USC Trojan Blog site.

“Much has been made of Matt Barkley's apparent penchant for throwing interceptions during Fall Camp 2009.

Crazy thing is, nothing could be further from the truth. In 486 passes during 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills in training camp, Barkley threw just eight interceptions…

…When looking back at previous seasons, Barkley's stat line from training camp puts him on pace, if not at an even better rate, than USC's quarterbacks in the past seven years. Take a look:

Matt Barkley ('09 Fall Camp):    301-for-486 • 61.9% • 8 interceptions

Mark Sanchez (2008 season):   241-for-366 • 65.8% • 10 interceptions

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John David Booty ('07 season):  215-for-340 • 63.2% • 10 interceptions

John David Booty ('06 season):  269-for-436 • 61.7% • 9 interceptions

Matt Leinart (2005 season):       283-for-431 • 65.7% • 8 interceptions

Matt Leinart (2004 season):       269-for-412 • 65.3% • 6 interceptions   *Heisman Trophy winner

Matt Leinart (2003 season):       255-for-402 • 63.4% • 9 interceptions

Carson Palmer (2002 season):   309-for-489 • 63.2% • 10 interceptions *Heisman Trophy winner”

It is a clear case of comparing apples with oranges.  That is, comparing camp drills for Barkley to actual game statistics for the other quarterbacks.

There is no rush in seven-on-seven drills.  All the quarterback sacks in 11-on-11 team periods are simple tags.  All the down-and-distance situations are controlled by the coaching staff.  It is ludicrous to compare camp practices with actual game statistics.

If they are going to provide practice statistics, then why not compare Barkley’s with those of Mitch Mustain and Aaron Corp?

It is a known fact that Corp had thrown only one interception all during spring practice and up to the day he was injured in training camp.

What is disarming is the reason that the USC staff felt a need to provide such a misleading comparison.

The only time I can remember Pete Carroll feeling that he had to provide a response to media criticism was back in January for his reactions at the Mark Sanchez press conference.  

Other than that, Carroll has never had any concerns about what the media thought or didn’t think.  

So, why all the concern now?

First of all, some of the criticism, if not much of it, has been coming from the USC Family, namely the fan base.  With older players like John David Booty, that was not much of a concern.

But with a true freshman, I believe the staff is worried that the negativity, especially from fans, may get into Barkley’s head and put excessive pressure on the young quarterback to make plays.

It’s not that Barkley needs an infusion of self-confidence.  His self-confidence level is off the meter, and the staff wants to keep it there.  

So, if he doesn’t feel the need to make big plays, he is more likely to rely on the top-flight players that surround him.

He has last year’s offensive line returning, one of the best in all of college football.  He has five running backs that are all game-breakers.

He has two fullbacks who can run, block and catch passes.  He has a corps of wide receivers who have a knack for gaining huge yards after the catch.

What this all adds up to is an ideal situation in which to bring in a true freshman, especially one with Barkley’s skills.  

But to try and gloss over his tendency to needlessly force throws by pumping out bogus comparisons is not something we have come to expect in the Pete Carroll era.

Hopefully, in the final mock scrimmage at the Coliseum tomorrow, the staff will not try to impress its fan base and the media by throwing a vanilla defense at Barkley.  They took the risk, they rolled the dice, now let it play out.