Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
As he gears up for the 2013 NFL Draft this week, former Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley sat down with Yahoo! Sports’s Michael Silver to talk about his feelings about the draft, in relation to how USC’s 2012 campaign may have put a damper on his future.
A seasons ago, Barkley was a guaranteed Top 5 pick and now, his place in the NFL Draft is significantly less certain. We all saw just what caused Barkley’s stock to take a nosedive this past season, but for the first time since leaving USC, the quarterback opened up about the biggest problem the Trojans had: the play-calling got too predictable.
Barkley took a lot of flack for forcing passes and for highly–and most times, obviously–favoring Marqise Lee on most plays, and though many of these decisions were out of his hands, his NFL worth took a huge hit because of it.
"“Kiff kind of suited the play-calling toward Marqise,” Barkley says. “It was rough at times, because defenses kinda knew what was coming. It was sort of predictive. Robert Woods is a great player. … You want to be respectful of your coaches, because they are your elders, but when it falls on your shoulders, you probably should get involved.”"
The forced passes to Lee were something that irritated Trojan fans and analysts alike, and have since influenced many NFL scouts to doubt his decision-making abilities.
"“I learned how to handle adversity last season, and maybe I could have done a few things differently. I could’ve had a bigger voice, given more input and taken it to the next level — pretty much as the owner of the company might … not just letting things happen.”"
Barkley seems to shoulder –no pun intended– some of the responsibility for the disastrous 2012 season, saying that as the captain and quarterback, he could have stepped up more to demand more from the team.
"“You put faith in your coaches, but when you see trends, things not happening the right way, and when the team rests on your shoulders, it’s almost like you have to step up. You can’t just let these things go by and watch them disintegrate in front of you. You’ve got to put the glue in somewhere. Looking back, I wish I’d been more forceful.”"
And being more forceful could have gone a long way for the Trojans. We have seen how quarterbacks like Andrew Luck can will teams to play for him, to win despite the odds stacked against them on a talent level. Even with all the talent USC had in 2012, they played with a visible lack of killer-instinct, and when victory was not certain, the team shied away from grasping it.
Even though he and the Trojans struggled greatly, Barkley’s mishaps have been overstated a bit, mostly because of how much he shined as a junior. He still threw 36 touchdowns for 3,273 yards before succumbing to a season-ending shoulder injury. He showed that he can throw it deep and make passes on the move, despite the popular notion to the contrary.
When the NFL Draft begins on Thursday, Barkley could either find himself called upon in the first round as was once expected, or slipping into the second round, which is where many analysts have him going now.
Either way, expect Barkley to have more of a field and locker room presence with his future NFL team than he did with USC in 2012. It will make the difference between him being having a fruitful pro career, or another USC quarterback that could have been, but wasn’t.