Has Barkley's season been a success?

December, 2, 2009
12/02/09
9:28
AM ET
This quarterback has thrown 11 interceptions and 12 touchdown passes in 10 games.

Is he any good?

That, of course, oversimplifies things with USC's true freshman quarterback Matt Barkley. If you've watched him play, his potential is clear. It's hard to believe that in two or three years he won't be a first-round NFL draft choice.

[+] EnlargeMatt Barkley
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireMatt Barkley has had his ups and downs during his first season as a starter.
And yet, as the LA Times' Gary Klein writes, there was a lot not to like about his first season as the Trojans' starter, particularly the interceptions.

Barkley admits that. He's been a stand-up guy all season.

His biggest defender, coach Pete Carroll -- it's sport among Trojans beat writers how Carroll nearly always blames other factors for Barkley's interceptions -- mostly admits the same. Mostly.

Barkley has completed 59 percent of his passes, a middling percentage considering how conservative the Trojans' offensive game plans have been. He ranks fifth in the Pac-10 in pass efficiency, but two of the quarterbacks he leads -- Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli and Washington's Jake Locker -- bring other attributes to the table (Locker has accounted for 23 total touchdowns; Masoli, 26).

More than a few Trojans fans wonder if the season would have been more successful with Aaron Corp or Mitch Mustain starting. And what if Corp, No. 1 on the depth chart after spring practices, didn't get hurt during the preseason?

Ah, what-ifs.

On the other hand, the payoff may be the next two years.

Barkley is clearly mature and bright. It's hard to believe he won't process this season and come back better next spring and fall. A sophomore blossom seems much more likely than a sophomore slump.

Of course, the Trojans' offense will be rebuilding next year -- is it time to jump ship on the automatic "reload?" -- particularly if a couple of juniors, such as receiver Damian Williams, declare early for the NFL draft.

The Pac-10 will be loaded at quarterback next fall, especially if Locker returns.

Where will Barkley rank in that pecking order entering the season? Probably fifth behind Locker, Masoli, Stanford's Andrew Luck and Arizona's Nick Foles.

But that doesn't matter, does it? The big issue for the Trojans is where he will rank a year from now.

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