Neuheisel: USC better without Barkley

CAMP
TONTOZONA, Ariz.
— During a trip to Arizona State’s fall
camp, Pac-12 Network analyst and former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel sized
up the Sun Devils’ competition in the Pac-12 South. In doing so, he
revealed a bold opinion about perennial conference power
USC.

“I think — and this is going to sound like
heresy — they’ll be better because (Matt) Barkley’s gone,” Neuheisel
said. “Barkley was such a proven entity at quarterback I think Lane
(Kiffin) leaned on him.”

Neuheisel didn’t knock
Barkley’s ability but believes Kiffin relied too much on the senior
during the Trojan’s disappointing 7-6 season, adversely affecting other
areas.

“He wanted to get the ball to Marqise Lee and
Robert Woods, just keep throwing, throwing, throwing,” Neuheisel said.
“They never really got physical on their fronts, and the defense was on
the field too long.”

That lack of physicality,
Neuheisel said, facilitated USC’s early loss to Stanford. Barkley, a
fourth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL Draft last
April, still put up big numbers, passing for 3,273 yards and 36
touchdowns but also had a career-high 15
interceptions.

This year, many predict the race in
the South to come down to ASU and defending champion UCLA.

Neuheisel doesn’t quite see it that
way.

“Don’t count out USC,” Neuheisel said. “They’ve
got some big, good-looking guys. The question at USC is
depth.”

USC’s depth has been affected by scholarship
restrictions levied due to NCAA violations. That led the Trojans to
intentionally practice softer last season to prevent injury, Neuheisel
said, but in an early stop on the Pac-12 Network’s tour of fall camps he
saw a different approach.

“We were there on Day One,
and even in shorts they’re looking like a physical team,” Neuheisel
said. “I don’t think you count them
out.”

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