Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Matt Barkley's past, present and future
By Pedro Moura
Matt Barkley made the media rounds on ESPN on Tuesday as he prepares for the upcoming season.
Matt Barkley went through the patented ESPN 'Car Wash' on Tuesday, making 12 appearances on a variety of ESPN platforms, including SportsCenter, local radio and SportsNation.
The questions varied wildly, naturally, but, in general, they centered on three topics: Barkley's past, Barkley's present and Barkley's future.
As in: (1) Was last season a disappointment, for you and for the team? (2) What do you expect out of this season, while dealing with NCAA sanctions and (3) Are you thinking NFL draft after this season?
Let's take our own glance at each of those, taking into consideration what Barkley has said about each of them:
Barkley, a 20-year-old junior from nearby Newport Beach, tends to take a very positive approach to things, especially when speaking with the media. But even he can't hide at least a vague sense of disappointment concerning the 2010 season and how it ended -- losing five games, including one when he was too hurt to play.
But, personally, it wasn't a failure. His numbers were good, and they've contributed to his NFL draft status and Heisman candidacy for the upcoming season, which we'll get to later.
The 26 touchdowns and 62 percent completion percentage? Good. The 12 interceptions? Not so much -- at least when compared to Stanford's Andrew Luck, Barkley's primary competition at the position in the Pac-12.
Luck, the projected No. 1 overall pick next April, threw nearly exactly the same amount of passes as Barkley did in 2010 but threw a third fewer interceptions, eight. Ten or fewer is a number Barkley needs to be able to hit in 2011.
You wonder how much of what Barkley said throughout the day Tuesday had to do with the NCAA sanctions, in some form or another. As he has on numerous occasions back home in Los Angeles, he frequently brought up the us-against-the-world mentality he champions to ESPN interviewers, mentioning that he and his teammates are now all well-trained in the art of motivational tactics.
Essentially, this season is a repeat of last season, with no potential postseason play. But it is going to be a lot easier in that USC -- and Barkley -- will presumably know how to play late in the year when they are past undefeated possibilities and simply playing for pride.
They will know how to stay competitive when mid-November comes around and a road date at Oregon awaits with a season finale against UCLA in the on-deck circle.
And that will be important.
Barkley won't say anything specific about next year's draft, although he is quick to mention he's honored by lists -- like Mel Kiper's -- that rank him among the top five or 10 prospects in the draft class.
He insists he's focused solely on the upcoming season and not wasting any of his time imagining or fantasizing about what's to come. That's easier now, with a full season to look forward to and potential galore to make noise in 2011. But, midway through next season or sometime late in the year, will he still be able to say that?
We can't say for sure. It's hard for any collegiate athlete to pass up a surefire top-10 selection and all of the guaranteed money that comes with it, and understandably so. Barkley's case is going to be especially interesting, though, with a number of unusual factors at play.
For one, there will be real motivation for him to come back and potentially play in his first postseason game since his freshman season. For another, it's likely he'll already be extremely close to receiving his college degree after the 2011 season anyway, by virtue of him enrolling a semester early in January 2009.
How's that relevant? Well, a big reason many players come back is to finish their degrees without the hassle of returning to school after turning pro. If he's already earned his degree or is thisclose to getting one, there's less reason to spend a whole year at school working towards it.