Barkley faces tough call on his future

Barkley faces tough call on his future

Published Dec. 20, 2011 12:00 a.m. ET

College Football News columnist Richard Cirminiello makes the case for Matt Barkley staying in school another year, while colleague Pete Fiutak follows with the argument for entering next April's draft:

Money isn’t everything . . . especially when the millions Matt Barkley can make in 2012 will still be there in 2013.

Barkley has a unique proposition in front of him, which makes the decision about his future so darn perplexing. Yes, he’s NFL-ready, and is going to be one of the first few players selected in either of the next two drafts. However, he’s not being lured back to just any school.

And he’s not being enticed by a normal situation.


This is USC. This is USC about to emerge from its postseason ban. This is a USC squad with enough talent, especially at wide receiver and tight end, to compete for a Pac-12 and a national championship next fall.

Barkley has been a steely ambassador for Troy over the last two difficult seasons, quietly leading the program back from the abyss with his powerful right arm. He’s had to skip bowl games, cede this year’s South Division to a dreadful UCLA team and get unfairly overlooked by voters for individual awards. The junior has done his penance for a crime he did not commit. Returning to school in 2012 will afford him a chance to recapture some of the memories he’s missed out on, and reap many of the rewards for all that he’s done for USC since the NCAA brought its hammer down more than a year ago.

Yeah, the NFL wants Barkley badly, but it’ll crave his skill set just as much a year from now because his stock is only going north. Injuries? Sure, they’re always possible in this game, but they’re a weak argument for turning pro early, since history shows that careers very rarely end on injuries. And that’s what Lloyds of London is for anyway.

You’ve earned next season, Matt. Go out and enjoy every ounce of it. Lead your team back to the mountaintop. Get a little vindication for all of the nasty comments lobbied in the direction of your school. Throw a slew of touchdown passes to Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and those fantastic young ends. Take your rightful place in New York City as a Heisman finalist. Finish what you’ve valiantly started. You deserve this opportunity to celebrate along with the program and the teammates that you’ve grown to love.

Barkley won’t be returning to a garden variety program. Or a garden variety situation. He has a chance to finish his college career as a bona fide Trojans hero, the face of Troy’s return to prominence. And you cannot put a price on that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Or he should go?

Matt Barkley already carried USC for a few years and was a perfect ambassador for the program when it needed him the most. He deserves to leave early. He has earned it.

He already did enough, but I get the argument for Barkley staying for one more season.

He went though the tough times, and now he deserves to reap the rewards on the other side.

USC is a top-five team if he comes back, and might be preseason No. 1.

There are worse things in the world than to be a superstar quarterback in Los Angeles.

And yes, there’s always the “I want to enjoy my final year before turning into an adult” aspect of things. You can always come back to go to school and learn more, but no, you can’t really ever get your senior year of college back.

However, if history is any indication, staying around isn’t worth it, and by worth it that means national title or bust. No, you don’t pass up millions of dollars to win the Pac-12 title.

Give me the star quarterback who stuck around an extra year and won the national title.

Did Oklahoma win it all when Sam Bradford chose to come back for one more year? No, he got hurt.

Is Stanford going to win the national title with Andrew Luck at the helm? No, and he lost an NFL season he won’t ever get back — remember, Peyton Manning sucked his rookie year.

Did Matt Leinart win a national title as a senior at USC? He came close, but Vince Young ruined that. How about Tim Tebow? He came close, but Mark Ingram ruined that. Chris Weinke won a Heisman, but lost to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

Was the Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska worth the $20 million to $35 million Jake Locker lost by staying for one final year? Brady Quinn didn’t use the Charlie Weis decided schematic advantage to improve as a pro prospect. Neither of the Mannings won it all as a senior, and Drew Brees didn’t get the Heisman and didn’t win the Rose Bowl.

More than that, it’s not a given that Barkley will improve his stock by returning. Some will say he could be the No. 1 overall pick in 2013 when the quarterback class appears far weaker than 2012’s, but that’s not a guarantee considering so many NFL teams are going to be set.

Assume that Indianapolis will take Luck, and Miami, Arizona, Seattle, Cleveland, Kansas City, and Washington are all going to have to address the position. If all seven of those teams invest in a quarterback, 2013 could be like 2005 and 2007 when almost no one needed to take a quarterback high.

Denver, the New York Jets, Minnesota and Buffalo all desperately need to upgrade at quarterback, but they won’t. In other words, unless there are a slew of major quarterback injuries and retirements next year, Barkley needs to get in now to be a top-10 pick or he could fall like an Aaron Rodgers/Brady Quinn-like rock.

His already solid arm isn’t going to get stronger; he’s not going to be taller than 6-foot-2 — at generous best; and there’s nothing he can do in one more season to upgrade his stock. And then there’s the problem that some might think he doesn’t want it badly enough.

It’s a legitimate knock on elite NFL prospects who want to stay around an extra year; either you have it to be player at the next level, or you don’t, and if I’m an NFL team, I want a player who eats, sleeps, dreams, and lives for playing in the pros.

Barkley is ready. It’s time to become an NFL quarterback. (But for my own selfish purposes, I’d love to see him return to see what a fully loaded USC could do.)