USC's QBs select game balls

BY foxsports • July 23, 2012

LOS ANGELES - USC quarterback Matt Barkley joked recently "a ball is just a ball."

Clearly, that's not true and it showed earlier this week when Barkley, Cody Kessler and Max Wittek tested out models for new footballs. Nike represents between 70-75 FBS schools and come up with eight to nine different models for footballs for respective schools to use.

The shape of the ball, the grip, the texture of the leather can all be selected.

"We can tailor it to the preference of the QB," said Nike Football Equipment Product Line Manager Tanner Marshall. "The type of leather, the lace, the pattern, how large or small the ball is. It all has to be within NCAA specifications so as long as we meet those qualifications we can adjust maybe how fat the ball is or how long it is as long as it stays within those rules." 

The quarterbacks tossed black, plastic footballs –also known as sizing kits-- around trying to decipher which one feels the best coming out of their hands. Barkley spent the most time doing it and he found what he liked. As the early favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in next year's NFL Draft, Barkley favored the model that best resembles the balls used on Sundays. NFL balls are slimmer than the ones used in college.

"Matt's preference has always been the NFL ball. He throws it flawlessly," said USC Football Equipment Coordinator, Tino Dominguez. "There was an NFL frame in there and sure enough he picked it out without knowing what it was and so did the other quarterbacks."

Choosing the balls is a collective effort. The quarterbacks give their input as well as the coaching staff and equipment manager to make sure they select the type that best fits the needs of the program.

"We need to make sure we're building a football for the needs of a program and not an individual player," Marshall said. "There's feedback that's going to come from the wide receivers.

"We allow the university to work together as a program and then give us feedback and then that feedback is what goes into selecting which ball they choose …The way that the school's order footballs, they order a bunch of them at once so there's going to be a lot of balls mixed in and so we just need to have some consistency. You don't want to be changing a football every single year."

After picking out the shape, Nike will come back with balls in that particular shape with different lace and leather patterns for members of the school to then choose from and those will be the models the Trojans use during the season.

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