Barkley reflects on Manning Pass Academy

USC quarterback Matt Barkley has been slinging the ball around the field during the Trojans summer workouts. He took those talents to Louisiana last weekend for the Manning Pass Academy.

On display was Barkley’s improved arm strength as noted by Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com.

“There were concerns about his ability to squeeze the ball into tight windows down the field,” Jeremiah said. “I was pleasantly surprised to watch him crank up the velocity on the deep comebacks during the workout on Saturday.”

The camp, held at Nicholls State and hosted by former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, along with his sons Peyton and Eli, featured 1,200 high school students. Barkley was one of about 40 current collegiate athletes to serve as a camp counselor.

It was his first time attending the camp and he relished the opportunity to learn from some of the game’s best.

“All (of) those guys, when they walk in the room they have that presence of just running the show. We got to talk a lot of ball, concepts and plays and defenses,” Barkley said. “It was a neat experience meeting all of those college guys as well as the Mannings. (They are) always a class act, professional about it but having fun at the same time.”

Some of the college quarterbacks in attendance were Washington’s Keith Price, Georgia’s Aaron Murray, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson of Arkansas, West Virginia’s Geno Smith, Tennessee’s Tyler Bray and Washington State’s Jeff Tuel. Being around a plethora of quarterbacks brought back memories for Barkley.

“It was almost like a high school combine again, where we were all out there,” Barkley said. “Even though it was a high school camp, all of the college guys were working out with the young kids together but then we would throw together. It was kind of good to put a face to a name with all of those guys you see (on TV) across the country you never get a chance to meet.”

Barkley threw a conference-record 39 touchdowns last season and set a school record by completing 69.1 percent of his passes. He set USC single-game records for completions (35), pass yards (468), touchdown passes (6) and total offense (470 yards) in 2011.

NFL riches awaited Barkley, who likely would have battled Robert Griffin III for the right to be the second quarterback taken in the 2012 NFL Draft behind Andrew Luck.

Barkley instead announced he would forego the draft and return to USC for his senior season. It was a decision that surprised many – including USC head coach Lane Kiffin – who said following the Trojans 50-0 win over crosstown rival UCLA in the 2011 season finale, “I know I probably shouldn’t say this, but unless he just wants to do it to be a special Trojan, he ain’t coming back.”

Barkley decided to return for a 2012 campaign that has been dubbed “Unfinished Business.” The Trojans were arguably the hottest team in the nation at the end of last season but were unable to compete in bowl completion due to NCAA sanctions. In 2012, USC is bowl eligible for the first time since Barkley’s freshman season in 2009.

The decision, however, wasn’t totally outside the norm. Andrew Luck decided to return for his redshirt junior season before eventually being taken as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft and graduating from Stanford last month. Former USC quarterback Matt Leinart returned for his senior year, as did Peyton Manning, who returned to Tennessee for his senior season. He commended Barkley for sticking with his heart.

“Peyton just said over and over again, directly to me, he never regretted at all coming back for his senior season and there’s no other time like it just because of the college atmosphere as opposed to being in the league,” Barkley said. “He just said to make the most of it and soak it all in.”

Manning was impressed with what he saw from Barkley on the field as well.

“Boy, you can see he’s really talented and really calm and collected,” Manning told CBSSports.com. “I certainly commend him on wanting to go back and be a senior in college. There’s no greater year than your senior year in college and let the college experience soak in and they’re going to have a great team.

“I think it will pay dividends for him and he’ll have a great year. And I know there will be a lot of talk about him with the draft between now and next April. I certainly see him being a top pro prospect.”