Despite a 5-1 record after six weeks of play, the Trojans have under-performed in all but one game this season. Based on the talent level and the expectation that the team had coming into the year, grading needs to tough.
Matt Barkley came into the year with tons of expectations and hasn’t quite lived up to the hype. A lot of blame here goes to Lane Kiffin but the stats belong to Barkley. After throwing just seven interceptions all of last season, Barkley has already thrown 6.
His completion percentage is at 62.7% this year which is down from 69.1% over last season. He has failed to get the ball to all of his weapons, throwing an extremely high percentage of his pass attempts to Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. Barkley has almost completely ignored his tight ends, backs out of the backfield, and third receivers.
In the process of all this Barkley has failed to live up to the Heisman hype and does not resemble the lock for the top overall pick in the NFL draft. So far he has looked extremely average at best.
Offensive Line was supposed to be a strength coming into this season. The Trojans were only looking to replace Matt Kalil at the left tackle spot so the transition should have been smooth for this unit. It has been anything but so far.
After giving up just 8 total sacks in all of 2011, the Trojans have already given up 9 in just 6 games. Some of this can be attributed to Barkley holding the ball so he can force it to Lee or Woods. Some of it can be attributed to Kiffin not calling an effective game to protect the line against the pass rush (Stanford, 2nd half).
There also has been a bit of shuffling this year which isn’t conducive to a cohesive unit. The shuffling was initially precipitated by the lingering ankle injury of Khaled Holmes. Still much of the shuffling seems to be for the sake of competition. There is Marcus Martin and Abe Markowitz battling for the left guard position. Then there is Aundrey Walker and Max Tuerk battling for the left tackle position.
You have to wonder if play at these two positions would be solidified with better play calling instead of constant rotation. I believe wholeheartedly in competition but if neither position is solidified this late in the season, maybe the problem is elsewhere.
The offense will need to rely heavily on the offensive line in the upcoming games. They most certainly will need to put points on the board and help take the pressure off of the defense. In order to do that they will need to run the ball and protect Barkley effectively. That will be achieved through effective play calling and consistency in personnel.