LOS ANGELES -- USC junior quarterback Matt Barkley was already taking classes on campus when Mark Sanchez declared for the NFL draft. He witnessed the backlash toward Sanchez three years ago when he opted to leave early, including from Trojans head coach Pete Carroll.
Barkley said he's not going to be swayed by USC fans who are increasingly excited about their team's prospects for 2012 if their quarterback returns. After upsetting Oregon Saturday, the Trojans have their first top-10 ranking since 2009.
"I think it might be a little unfair for people to do that, just because they don't know my full situation or my family's situation or all the other things that come into it rather than just being USC's hero," Barkley said. "That sounds great and there's definitely a chance that would happen, but I'm not in a position to say, 'Oh, I want to come back to beat every record and win the national championship and get all the glory. That could happen, but that's not how I'm looking at it.'
"I think if people were just to support me in whatever I do, that'd be the best situation."
Barkley, who is widely viewed as a top-15 pick if he were to declare by the Jan. 18 deadline, said he will seek solitude before deciding his next career move. The Trojans' season ends after Saturday's game against rival UCLA. They are ineligible for a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions but emerge from their bowl ban next year.
Barkley is one of four USC juniors, along with left tackle Matt Kalil, safety T.J. McDonald and defensive end Nick Perry, who could get picked in the early rounds of the draft if they leave early. The Trojans have just one senior starter on offense and two on defense. Barkley said he has discussed the future with all three of those players, but that none of them has made up his mind.
"If we all come back, it could be insane," Barkley said.
One factor that could be in USC's favor as Barkley mulls his decision in the coming weeks: financial need. Barkley is from Newport Beach, a wealthy Orange County community, and said he won't go pro for the money.
"I'm completely happy with where I am right now," Barkley said. "I think college is one of the most abundant times of your life, living off your parents pretty much. You get a stipend, which arguably can be raised. I get fed, have all the clothes I need and I'm living the life, I feel like. So I don't think that's going to be one of the big issues of me leaving, which I think is a good situation to be in."
Mark Saxon covers USC and the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com.