- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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"People have been looking at stats over the past year, who's hot, who's not," Barkley said Friday on "The Herd" on ESPN Radio. "We didn't finish the year strong, I know that. But that doesn't mean I'm any less of a quarterback this year. I'm excited just to put that back in people's minds. I haven't lost any confidence in myself and haven't doubted my ability to play quarterback, not once."
Barkley suffered a right shoulder injury late in the fourth quarter of USC's loss to UCLA on Nov. 17, and missed subsequent losses to Notre Dame in the regular season and Georgia Tech in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.
USC, the preseason No. 1, finished 7-6, and Barkley, the preseason Heisman Trophy favorite, threw 15 interceptions, the most of his four-year career as the Trojans starter.
Barkley believes he's as good, if not better, than he was in 2011, when he threw 39 touchdowns and seven interceptions and was projected to go high in the first round of the draft before deciding to return to USC for his senior season. Although Barkley will attend the NFL combine in Indianapolis next month, he doesn't know if he will throw there yet. He will instead throw at a pro day to be held on USC's campus with wide receiver Robert Woods after the combine.
"It seems to be the trend not to (throw at the combine), and I don't feel that I have to," Barkley said. "We'll see when that time gets closer. It will be more of a game-day decision as to whether I'm going to. I want to do as much as I can. ... I don't feel I have to necessarily prove anything."
Barkley also defended the maligned Lane Kiffin and believes he should be USC's coach moving forward. Kiffin took over USC during a difficult time due to NCAA sanctions, Barkley said, adding he believes the coach should be commended for the job he has done with a two-year bowl ban and 30 fewer scholarships spanning three years.
"Given the circumstances with less scholarships, it really affected the way we were able to practice. It really stunk," Barkley said. "You can't risk players getting hurt with tackling drills and you don't have that depth that other teams do, and I think that really affected us. If he can conquer that this year with the skill that they have, I think he'll definitely secure that position."
He added: "He almost had to resurrect a program ... He had to inspire a team during that, which he did. Two years ago, he inspired us and we had a great team. Last year was a little different circumstances, but he can still bring it back to where it needs to be."
10mDianna Russini and Adam Schefter
11hEric D. Williams
1dBy Dan Graziano
2dMatt Walks, ESPN.com