Print and Go Back ESPN.com: College Football [Print without images]

Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Matt Barkley begins offseason work

By Pedro Moura
Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Quarterback Matt Barkley was back at it Tuesday for the USC Trojans, participating in the first throwing session of the new year with his teammates since announcing last month he would return for his senior season this fall.

Barkley passed up a likely top-10 selection in the 2012 NFL draft when he decided just before Christmas that he would return to chase a national championship with the Trojans. He said he has not had any second thoughts about the decision.

"It feels like it should," Barkley said after the hourlong workout. "It just feels natural, like there's not even another option before me.

"This is where I'm supposed to be and where I feel comfortable."

As he has for most of the past two seasons, Barkley led the unofficial session and did a lot of the quarterbacking as USC incorporated a few new players.

He threw a number of passes to Marqise Lee, a freshman All-American in 2011, and former high school teammate Victor Blackwell. Robert Woods is still recovering from offseason ankle surgery, and George Farmer, who recently moved back to receiver from running back, did not participate.

Among the others in attendance was Carson (Calif.) receiver Darreus Rogers, a four-star class of 2012 prospect who is expected to announce Feb. 1 whether he is attending Arizona State or USC next season. Rogers caught a couple of balls from Barkley during the session.

Toward the end of the session, Barkley, 21, was having a lot of fun with some playground-style pigskin, in which all the receivers ran improvised routes and he had to throw on the fly.

He said he would have found a way to have a similar sense of enjoyment with the pre-draft preparation process, but he also couldn't deny that running his own workout with his longtime teammates was unique.

"You'd be training either way, but it's a little bit different of a mentality with a different goal for the trainings," Barkley said. "I'm glad that we can come out here without the coaches and just do our own thing, though."

As for how close he was to actually leaving the workouts behind in favor of working out on an individual basis, the NFL combine and the riches of the NFL draft, Barkley didn't sell it short.

"I definitely thought I was going to be out of here," he said. "But things change."

Pedro Moura covers USC football for ESPNLosAngeles.com.