Barkley, McDonald engineer summer workouts
LOS ANGELES – While the rest of America was locked into bowl games last fall, USC safety T.J. McDonald wasn’t very happy. His unhappiness only grew whenever he would turn on the TV and see some teams playing in a bowl.
“It was a lonely feeling at first,” McDonald said. “You can’t say that you’re not (disappointed). The thing that hurt about it the most was that we had nothing to do with it. We had to pay consequences for somebody else.”
Quarterback Matt Barkley’s thought pattern was similar.
“I realized we couldn’t play,” Barkley said. “I’m not the type of guy to moan over that stuff but definitely we were cheated out of playing in a game we should have (been able to play in), but why complain about it?”
With an opportunity to return to a bowl game, the two senior captains, who both elected to forego the riches of the NFL to return to school for one last go-around, are out leading their teammates through summer workouts.
With the coaching staff unable to run or be present during workouts in the summer per NCAA rules, the Trojans are in the hands of Coach Barkley and Coach McDonald.
“Those are guys that you want to model your leadership after when you get older and you see how they take control of stuff,” said quarterback Cody Kessler. “It’s nice having them come out here and then giving us that example and showing us what to do by modeling the right way to do it.”
Their goal this summer is to tidy up the loose ends.
“The little things like finishing to the line and not making any excuses,” Barkley said. “Just knowing that it’s all worth it to put your head down and work and not to take a rep off. Stuff like that, that will carry us late into the season.”
While they’re busy working on the little things, if you didn’t know any better, you’d think you were in the presence of one of the greatest pickup games around.
“I told people, 'Imagine if we were an intramural team,'" Kessler joked. “It’s great coming out here early in the morning.”
No pads. Just shorts and t-shirts for players, as the offense battled against the defense. Each side would have their turn at making plays with a lot of good natured smack talk throughout. It’s easy to see they’re having fun. Almost too much fun, but according to Barkley, that’s not possible.
“I don’t see how you could have too much fun whether it’s bonding on the field or off the field,” Barkley said. “These are guys that you’re going to fight with so you might as well get to know each other as best you can and stuff like this just helps further along that process even more.”
“This is already a close team,” McDonald said. “I’m not sure how much closer we can get. This is our fun time. Just come out here and play football. A little less organized than when you have coaches out but it’s still fun though.”
As much fun as they’re having, that doesn’t define the reason Barkley elected to return for his senior campaign.
“That’s just a byproduct of it,” Barkley said. “This happens every year but I came back for more reasons than that. Bigger things to accomplish and it’s not just to have fun.”