Barkley: No change in arm strength

July, 27, 2012
7/27/12
7:50
PM PT
Most of media day tends to be a gigantic, drawn-out rehashing of a bunch of things attentive fans and reporters already know.

The questions asked of coaches on the podium are often strikingly similar to the questions asked of them three months earlier at the conclusion of spring practice, and the answers aren't much different. The questions asked to players typically aren't very specific or creative, and the answers are even less so.

USC quarterback Matt Barkley broke that tradition a little bit Tuesday at 2012 Pac-12 media day, dishing some useful information and thoughtful responses during a half-hour interview session with reporters over lunch.

The biggest takeaway from that talk: Barkley's take on reports of him displaying significantly improved arm strength this summer. He dismissed them quickly.

"I haven't noticed any difference in my arm strength," Barkley said outside the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City. "Maybe someone else did for the first time and took note of it, which is maybe a good thing."

Someone else did notice it for the first time -- NFL.com writer Daniel Jeremiah, a former scout with three NFL teams. In a recap of this month's Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana, Jeremiah noted that Barkley impressed him during drills he watched at the academy.

"I've seen Barkley play live several times during his college career and I noticed one big difference last week: His arm has gotten much stronger," Jeremiah wrote. "He was able to drive the ball with more authority than he has in the past three years. He has always had great footwork and touch as a passer, but there were concerns about his ability to squeeze the ball into tight windows down the field.

"I was pleasantly surprised to watch him crank up the velocity on the deep comebacks during the workout on Saturday."

Arm strength, along with a lack of elite height and mobility, has been Barkley's biggest weakness for some time. He has been projected as an eventual NFL quarterback since he was 16, but he has never been known as a make-all-the-throws type of guy.

If what Jeremiah saw presents itself in fall camp next month and during the 2012 season this fall, Barkley's stock would jump even higher for next April's NFL draft. But the senior's comments at media day would seem to foretell something different.

Asked about reports regarding his arm strength, Barkley deflected a bit, saying arm strength wasn't always all that important to a quarterback. There are other things that go into making a signal-caller great, he said.

"I think you have to wing it when you need, but you don't want to throw it as hard as you can on every single pass when you're playing," Barkley said. "There's something called touch."

There is. And Barkley has proven in three years at USC he has a good amount of it.

But even a small improvement in the amount of zip on his passes -- however it's achieved -- would go a sizable way.

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