NCAA FB

Trojans ready for big run behind Barkley

Share This Story

   
 

LOS ANGELES (AP)

Matt Barkley's progression at Southern California has taken him from a heralded freshman who sometimes made questionable decisions to one of the best quarterbacks in college football.

So once he finished his junior season, the general belief was that he would leave the Trojans for the NFL. He was, after all, already a polished quarterback and was expected to be a high NFL draft pick.

But when the time came to make a decision, Barkley surprised just about everyone. He was coming back, forgoing a big payday in the NFL for one more college season and a chance to play for a national title.

And with Barkley back, the Trojans are among the front-runners to win a title.

''I assume he would have been a top-5 pick, totally ready to go in and be the face of a franchise and be ready to play in the NFL,'' USC coach Lane Kiffin said. ''His situation was different, and I think it was about him wanting to do something special. What some people have written, he may be able to go down as the most historic Trojan ever if we do big things this year.''

The Trojans certainly have that chance.

The past two seasons, USC has been ineligible for the postseason because of NCAA sanctions.

Now, the Trojans are bowl-eligible again and have the type of players who could make not just a bowl run, but contend for much more.

There's Robert Woods, one of the nation's most dynamic receivers who's expected to be healthy after battling an ankle injury last season. Complementing him, along with giving Barkley another option, is Marquise Lee, a could-break-one-any-play receiver who's expected to be more polished in his second season.

Curtis McNeal, who ran for over 1,000 yards last season, is back and leads a deep running back corps, one that should be even better with the unexpected arrival of Penn State transfer Silas Redd.

USC has plenty of playmakers on defense, too, led by safety T.J. McDonald, who also bypassed a shot at the NFL, and cornerback Nickell Robey.

Leading them all will be Barkley, a Heisman Trophy favorite who turns what would have been a good team into potentially a great one.

''Our leader is back,'' McNeal said. ''Having your leader to lead you in battle, it just motivates you even more to go get what we want.''

Barkley was highly touted as a freshman, expected to be the next in a line of star quarterbacks at USC, following in the footsteps of Carson Palmer, Mark Sanchez and Matt Leinart.

He didn't quite live up to the billing as a freshman, throwing for over 2,700 yards and 15 touchdowns, but with 14 interceptions and occasional ill-advised throws.

Barkley progressed the next season, getting a better grasp for the game while throwing for nearly 2,800 yards and 26 touchdowns with 12 interceptions as a sophomore.

He took an even bigger step last season as a junior, finishing sixth in the Heisman voting after throwing for 3,528 yards and a team-record 39 touchdowns while completing 69 percent of his passes - another school record - with just seven interceptions.

After a season like that, the consensus was that Barkley was headed to the NFL. Even he thought he was going before changing his mind - and the fortunes of the Trojans this season.

''Right after we played UCLA I was on an emotional high, and the way we finished out the season, I thought for sure I was going to the NFL,'' Barkley said. ''But once that settled down, and I started looking into it all, I think I made the right call.''

Barkley's return gives the Trojans a chance to burst out of what had been a dark time.

USC spent the past two seasons without a chance to play in the postseason, thanks to NCAA sanctions tied to former Heisman Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush. The Trojans also lost 30 scholarships, forcing Kiffin and his staff to get creative with the depth chart and in recruiting, while leaving the team bereft of depth.

USC's roster is still thin because of the sanctions, but the postseason ban has been lifted, giving the players something to play for other than pride.

And, in a way, the past two years may have helped the Trojans. They held it together with no hope of playing in a bowl, winning eight games in 2010 and 10 last season.

Now, they're using the built-up frustration as motivation.

''I do think that the sanctions have brought our team closer together and strengthened us in a way that I didn't anticipate,'' Barkley said. ''It made us stronger in terms of character and, you know, it allowed us to face adversity in a unique way that guys our age aren't really used to.

''It seemed all bad at first, but ultimately, I think it worked in our favor for this point where we are today.''

Which, thanks to Barkley's return, is in position for a national-title run.

Tagged: USC, Matt Barkley

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by

College Football Pick'em on FOX


NCAA FB Videos

Sumlin annoyed by media's Manziel questions Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Kevin Sumlin responds to questions about life after Johnny Football by toying wi...

AJ Pasquale's journey back to UCLA Posted: Jun 17, 2014
UCLA football ops intern AJ Pasquale describes his own personal journey after th...

Winston issued adult civil citation Posted: Apr 30, 2014
Get the latest news surrounding Jameis Winston's recent shoplifting fiasco.

Get Inside the Locker Room with Scout.com

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Florida_Gators/browse/featuredproduct/759777/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_759000/ff_759777_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Michigan_State_Spartans/browse/featuredproduct/760171/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_760000/ff_760171_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White
    Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_USC_Trojans/browse/featuredproduct/761373/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_761000/ff_761373_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/829709/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829709_xl.jpg&w=100 64.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimso..
    Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_LSU_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/829740/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829740_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple
    Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_Sooners/browse/featuredproduct/830935/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_830000/ff_830935_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish/browse/featuredproduct/861243/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861243_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue
    adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Nebraska_Cornhuskers/browse/featuredproduct/861247/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861247_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapback Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1087345/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1087000/ff_1087345_xl.jpg&w=100 29.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapba..
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1093431/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1093000/ff_1093431_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash