LOS ANGELES – USC coach Lane Kiffin said after the Trojans’ 50-0 win over UCLA in their 2011 season finale that he does not expect quarterback Matt Barkley to return for his senior season in 2012, barring an unexpected decision to chase a national championship.
Prefacing it by saying he knew he shouldn’t be saying it, Kiffin said Barkley, an expected top-10 pick in the 2012 NFL draft if he chooses to declare, has little to gain by choosing to come back for a senior year.
“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,” Kiffin said. “Unless he decides to do something that’s just a special Trojan because of who he is and doesn’t care about the money, this is not gonna be a deal where he’s gonna go late in the first or something like that. He’s every bit ready to go to the NFL.
“It’s just gonna be a decision: Does he want to do something really unique? And he might be the kid to do that.”
Barkley, who will graduate in May, completed 83 percent of his passes for 423 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions against UCLA, breaking the school’s single-game mark for completions with 35 and single-season record for touchdown passes with 39.
Kiffin measured his numbers up against Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and other top quarterbacks in the NCAA and said Barkley has been at least as good as all of them.
“Who’s playing better than that in the country?” Kiffin said. “You’re an NFL team … How do you not draft that kid, knowing what kind of a player he is and what kind of kid he is."
“Without a bowl game, he just threw for more touchdowns than anybody in the history of USC in a single season with a bunch of babies around him.”
Barkley said he had not yet made a decision -- or even thought about -- whether to stay at USC or leave for the NFL.
"I have no idea what I am doing next year," he said. "Tonight is too special to worry about that."
Kiffin praised the 21-year-old quarterback for staying at USC in spite of NCAA sanctions placed upon the program following his freshman season and said few adults could withstand the pressures he faced in his college career -- let alone amateur athletes.
He mentioned the day the sanctions were announced -- June 10, 2010 -- and how Barkley came out to speak to the media as a sort of spokesperson for the school as evidence that he was ready to move on and ready for the NFL.
“I know it sounds weird and I probably shouldn’t say this, but I look up to Matt Barkley,” Kiffin said. “Matt Barkley’s been through a lot of adversity now. For a kid, 19 I believe, to go in front of all you guys when basically all his dreams about football were taken away, no bowl games, transfers sanctions, new president, new head coach, new athletic director.
“How many 39-year-olds could handle that, let alone 19-year-olds? He’s just unbelievable.”