Though highly touted and clearly committed (Barkley graduated high school a semester early to enroll at USC), it was nonetheless a surprise that the true freshman earned the starting job. A true freshman, in fact, had never started the opening game of the season at quarterback in USC history. This, however, was just the beginning of Barkley's rise to stardom in the Pac-10.
Barkley started 12 games in 2009, completing 59.9% of his passes for 2,735 yards, 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. His first game on the road he led an 86-yard game-winning drive to take the lead (1:05 left) and eventually beat Ohio State. Despite the distraction of Carroll leaving for the Seattle Seahawks and being replaced by Lane Kiffin, Barkley made significant strides in 2010, starting 12 games, completing 62.6% of his passes for 2,791 yards and an impressive 27 to 12 touchdown to interception ratio.
Scouts will find weaknesses to his game. Barkley is shorter than preferred and doesn't possess an elite arm. He does, however, have enough of an arm to make every NFL throw, good accuracy on the move and in the pocket and the intangibles that every NFL team is hoping for in a franchise quarterback. These facts, along with his success in Kiffin's pro-style scheme, could lead Barkley to test the NFL after his junior season.
Accuracy: Is generally a very accurate passer who places the ball in position for his receiver to generate yardage after the catch. Adept at the back-shoulder fade and in zipping slants between defenders. Has a tendency to throw slightly behind receivers running crossing routes from his right to his left. Is consistently more accurate to receivers running left to right. Good ball placement on touch passes down the seam. Struggles consistently hitting receivers in stride on the deep ball. Typically overthrows the route, making his receiver the only one capable of catching up to the ball. Doesn't own a howitzer, however, and some of his deep passes can hang too long as a result.
Arm Strength: Has the ability to make every throw, but has only slightly above average arm strength, overall. Zips short and intermediate routes, but relies more on timing and accuracy, rather than arm strength for the deep out. Only an average deep ball passer.
Setup/Release: Among his better attributes. Takes virtually all of his snaps from under center and gains depth efficiently while keeping his eyes downfield. Sets his feet and steps into his throws when he given room. Has a compact, over the top throwing motion with good follow-through. Has shown the ability to drop his release point to evade oncoming pass rushers.
Reading Defenses: Another strength. An intelligent passer who has the freedom and understanding of the offense to call audibles at the line. Good poise in the pocket. Trusts his protection and keep a running clock in his head, looking to secondary targets before vacating the pocket. Rarely throws into the teeth of the defense and when he does so, he shows good accuracy to adjust his throw so that only his receiver should have a play on the ball.
On The Move: Lacks the foot speed and agility to ever be a true threat as a scrambler, but is an alert ball-carrier who will take yardage given to him. Often used on rollouts in this offense, especially moving to his right. Impressive accuracy on the move, even when not allowed to set his feet. Has to learn to run lower and gain strength in his lower body to improve on the quarterback sneak.
Intangibles: The only freshman in team history to start at quarterback in the season-opener and the first for any team ranked in the AP's top five to do so since No. 3 Michigan's Rick Leach did so in 1975. The first true sophomore to ever be named a captain at USC. Legitimate concerns about his size and durability. Has missed at least one game in each of his first two seasons due to injury, including an ankle sprain in 2010 (missed second half of Oregon State, Notre Dame) and a bruised right (throwing) shoulder in 2009 (missed Washington). Also underwent surgery on his right wrist prior to 2010 spring practice."
- He showcases the ability to get out from under center, maintain balance and accurately work the three-step game.
- Possesses a compact delivery and can get the ball out quickly.
- He’s a smart kid who deciphers information well in the face of pressure and quickly/accurately can find his secondary outlets.
- Possesses a wide throwing base from the pocket, doesn’t need to consistently step into throws in order to generate velocity as he transfers his weight well off his back leg.
- Exhibits the ability to anticipate throws on all levels of the field, throwing receivers open and letting go of the football before receivers get out of their breaks.
- He’s a “plus” thrower on the move. Generates good torque from the hips and displays good accuracy and arm strength when asked to get outside the pocket.
- Collects himself quickly in the boot action game, is a quick decision maker on the move, can settle his feet quickly and get the ball out on time.
- Is a three-year starter who has battled adversity and really matured into the leader of the USC football team.
- Exhibits a good feel in the pocket. Calmly side steps pressure and keeps his eyes down the field through the play.
- Does a nice job manipulating defenses, moving the safety and calmly working his progression back across the field.
What I don’t like…
- Possesses a very average skill set. Lacks ideal size and overall arm strength.
- Is a bit limited as an athlete, isn’t going to run away from any NFL defenders.
- Looks a bit slow-footed in the pocket. Doesn’t reset his feet once he widens his base.
- Accuracy gets inconsistent because of struggles to quickly reset plant leg. Gets rushed because he knows the ball needs to come out on time, but struggles to reset and balance his footwork quickly.
- The same inconsistencies show up on bucket throws as he at times fails to collect himself. Will rush passes and fall off throws and/or not always stride toward his target.
- Will throw blind when finding secondary options, knows the ball needs to come out, but will force passes into coverage when working back across the field.
- Doesn’t always spin the cleanest of footballs, might struggle in cold/windy conditions.
Impression: An NFL ready quarterback prospect who is a bit limited from a pure talent stand-point. Looks like a solid starting quarterback at the next level, in the Matt Ryan mold."
He displays a calm demeanor on the field, very polished technique, and does a great job reading through his progressions.
Arm strength is a slight concern.
At the next level, he'll need to improve his ability to drive the ball and put some velocity on medium routes.
Athletically average, not particularly mobile but can make up for that by remaining steady in the pocket.
Not afraid to hang tough and let the play develop.
Accuracy is above average and can put a nice touch on short passes.
Sometimes does not put enough air on deep passes, leaving wide receivers unable to make late adjustments to the ball."
While Barkley has the skills, there are several areas of his game that need improvement. The biggest issue surrounds his technique and mechanics. The issues start as soon as he gets the ball from center as he holds the ball very low around his waste. This results in a wasted motion and adds precious time to his release. As he scans the field, Barkley has a wide stance and hops which impacts his balance and ability to drive the football. He also has a tendency to throw off his back-foot impacting the zip on the ball. Barkley needs to be more consistent when it comes to squaring his body towards his target. His feet are often lined towards the sideline hindering his ability to deliver an accurate football.
Overall, Barkley needs to tighten up his mechanics which will help his consistency. The physical tools, experience, and personality are all there for Barkley to develop into a successful NFL quarterback.
Bold Statement: Matt Barkley will not enter the 2012 NFL Draft
Games Viewed: Washington ('10), Stanford ('10), UCLA ('10)
- Barkley has very good touch on the ball and can drop it in over the defender
- He is able to deliver a nice catchable bucket pass
- His arm strength is slightly above average as he delivers the ball w/ good zip
- Working the short yardage game is not an issue as he delivers a nice ball on quick slants
- Entering his 3 year as the starter, Barkley has gained a lot of big game experience
- This experience allows him to remain poised and calm in the pocket
- He has also developed a nice savvy to his game knowing how to use pump fakes
- Barkley is a decent athlete with fluid motions
- Despite a long throwing motion, Barkley can get the ball out of his hands quickly
- He has good ball placement and above average accuracy
- Barkley is able to go across the field while searching for an open target
- He appears to get sloppy and lazy with his mechanics
- The ball is consistently below his breast plate adding wasted movements to his throwing motion
- He has a hitch in his delivery that extends his throwing motion
- Barkley drops the ball and his shoulder prior to his release resulting in a big long windup
- He constantly throws off his back foot and fails to step into his throws
- This results in less zip on the football and allows the defender to break on the ball
- While he is very accurate, he struggles to set his feet and body towards his target
- He routinely releases the ball with his feet pointed towards the sideline rather than towards his target
- Barkley's stance is too wide and accompanied by hops both of which impact his balance
- When faced with pressure, Barkley makes poor decisions by forcing the football, fading away from the line as he throws, and prematurely evacuating the pocket
- There are times when he holds the football to long raising questions about his anticipation"
Has a rifle arm and solid mechanics and can make all the throws; also has good football instincts and fine leadership intangibles; was the first sophomore ever elected a team captain at USC;
Not all that tall, though, at barely 6-2 and doesn’t run, much although he has decent speed;
Also still needs to improve consistency and decision-making in the pocket; can be inaccurate at times with a career-high completion mark of 63% last fall; also has thrown a few too many picks (26) over the course of his 2-year tenure at USC;
Had surgery on his right wrist prior to 2010 spring practice to relieve stiffness and clean up inflammation and missed parts of two games last fall with sprained ankle."
Barkley has great poise in the pocket. He is great at stepping up, side stepping, and doing whatever is necessary to avoid the pass rush. He has an NFL caliber arm. Now, it isn’t the best arm, but he’s more then capable of making all the NFL throws. He has a good, compact throwing motion. He improved significantly from 09 to 10. He threw 11 more touchdowns and 2 less interceptions.
He runs a pro style offense, is a great leader, and works hard. Now, Barkley is not perfect. He has been inconsistent with his accuracy during his time at SC. He completed 60 percent of his passes as a freshman and 62 as a sophomore. He will likely have a difficult time this season thanks to a very young, and injured o-line. Additionally, Barkley has been dinged up each of the two years he played at USC.
A full, healthy year at USC will due him good or he might be labeled “fragile” when he comes out. Nevertheless, Barkley is an elite prospect who will be a franchise QB for some team whenever he comes out. He is a likely top 5 pick and with the offensive weapons that surround him at USC, he could challenge Andrew Luck for the #1 pick in 2012."