When the season started many of us were concerned about just how well Matt Barkley was going to perform. Here was a very highly touted TRUE FRESHMAN starting at the most visible position on the most visible team not only in the Pac-10 but in just about in all of college football.
The "Savior" thrust into the spotlight...
We all know how touted Barkley was from his early days on the recruiting rags' radar. It is practically urban legend!
How Barkley got the starting at this point is not really worth rehashing. The fact is whether or not we agree as to how the events of fall ball were handled, Barkley got the job and most SC fans rallied behind him. Most knowledgeable fans knew that the 2009 season could be a struggle. Aside from Barkley, SC had a new QB coach, the defense was replacing the front seven, a daunting road schedule and then as the season progressed a number of devastating injuries.
For roughly the first half of the season Barkley performed better than most of us expected. SJSU was a throwaway game but he held his own at the 'Shoe played pretty good at Cal and for the first 3 quarters at ND played a pretty solid game. But from there it went downhill. Barkley turned into the True Freshman QB we all knew was there but hoped would never raise its potentially ugly head.
And then the floodgates of criticism REALLY opened...
The criticism of how Pete Carroll picked and then handled Barkley and his subsequent micromanaging of Jeremy Bates really picked up steam from just about every corner of anything associated with USC. Be it the press (local or national), the message boards and the Trojan Blogosphere were all starting to wonder if the Barkley move and how he was subsequently handled as the season progressed was the right one.
You really saw some anger come out from everyone including me!
In for a dime, in for a dollar...
Regardless of what we all saw the fact is Matt Barkley is our QB. We now know why Pete Carroll was so visibly upset at Mark Sanchez's decision to go pro. He knew Barkley was going to get trial by fire. All the public for support for Corp, at least to me, was all for show. If Steve Sarkisian knew how to exploit Corp does anyone else think that PC didn't have the same info? Of course he did, but he had to keep up the facade in order to keep any public controversy that was going to come (and boy did it ever) at a minimum...good luck with that.
Not to knock Sanchez but the whole reason that Corp was recruited was because SC didn't know if they were going to have Sanchez after his arrest for sexual assault. PC needed a back up plan and Corp was it on short notice. Heck, simply getting attention from SC earned Corp a 5th star in the recruiting rags. Once PC got him on the team and was able to really see if he could handle the complicated USC playbook I think PC knew in the back of his mind that Corp was not all that. Sure, SC had Garrett Green but he was never a realistic option for starting QB. Enter Mitch Mustain...
Just as an aside observation, it is kind of ironic that Mark Sanchez's actions had such a profound impact on the program. Obviously, we saw what he could do on the field. There is no question he can ball. But the two incidents/decisions at both the beginning and end of his career at USC are where we are today.
Turning the page...
So with the regular season now over and with Bowl prep fully underway, Matt Barkley looks to turn the page...
Barkley, who has passed for 13 touchdowns, with 12 interceptions, has tried to forget about much of the season -- "even the good wins," he said -- as he readies for a performance that he hopes will carry into 2010.
"It's huge for me personally," he said of the game at San Francisco's AT&T Park. "If I play well . . . then we'll get that solid victory. We'll be able to get that confidence back, which should help our team as a whole."
Barkley is happy that finals have ended, giving him plenty of time to prepare for Boston College.
Barkley's season included several highs and a second half of mostly lows.
Coach Pete Carroll said the mental rigors of starting "had to be burdensome for a young guy."
But it was Carroll, of course, who put Barkley in that position, opting to start and stick with the former Santa Ana Mater Dei star rather than turn to third-year sophomore Aaron Corp or junior Mitch Mustain for anything other than injury-relief or mop-up duty.
You gotta like Gary Klein's little dig at PC in the end there...
Sometimes I am amazed...Klein sees the team in person just about everyday but it would appear that can't see the forest through the trees. It is Corp's intangibles that Kein obviously doesn't see...you know the same ones that Sarkisian exploited when Corp started up in Seattle. I don't want to hear that PC didn't give Corp the "official" word that he was the starter. I mean Barkley was questionable the whole week and hardly took a snap that week, what more "official" notification did Corp need? Even More telling was the scene on TV that we all saw of Jeremy Bates scratching off plays on the play sheet because wasn't grasping it...this after THREE Years in the system!!
Yeap...Corp was our guy!
Barring injury, USC is going to have Barkley for probably just three years. The kid drips with talent and is ahead of where many True Freshman are in regards to grasping the game. Did it always show that on the field? Well, obviously no. I think it is safe to say that Barkley hit a wall, even if no one wants to admit. So, with knowing that Pete Carroll rolled the dice...we saw the results, it was a tale of two seasons.
The true test will be in the coming months where his mind can relax, where he take some time to review film of this past season while getting ready for spring ball. Many coaches have said that you can see a player improve between seasons...for the most part that is true but many of us are looking for significant improvement in 2010. The question is who is going to coach him? Will Bates end up in the NFL?
Criticism from all sides...
It wasn't just the USC side of the ledger that was concerned and/or critical with Barkleys performance...USC's rivals got into the act as well.
I got a kick out of two posts that called Barkley out. One was from our friends over at CGB.
What player or unit (offensive line, particular aspect of defense, coach, other thing, etc.) do you feel played the worst this season? Did I leave anyone off that requires mention? Discuss in the comments!
Wait a second. Didn't Barkley just beat Ohio State in the Horseshoe? Nothing can stop him now! He's on his way to college football greatness!
Anyway, it seems like Carroll's petty anger at Mark Sanchez was a bad sign of things to come. I'm not saying that Sanchez could've saved USC from the avalanche at Autzen, but he should've outdueled Luck and Foles with essentially the same offense from last year. It would've been a B- version of the 2005 team, all offense and average defense. And they'd probably have ended up in Tempe.
If Sanchez was like an ice cream sundae at Fenton's (a little bad here and there, but still a tasty ride the whole way), Barkley was like a strawberry cream pie shake at Sonic's (tantalizing at first taste, but man would it make you sick down the road). He threw the most interceptions in the Pac-10, more than Sullivan, Prince, and any of the Wazzu troupe. His four turnovers in the Cardinal romp led to 28 Furd points, and he threw another killer pick against Arizona that led to what turned out to be a crucial seven points for the Wildcats. His 4th quarter stats were abominable--50% completion rate, one touchdown, SEVEN interceptions, 83 passer rating, which is good for 117th in the country, only about a drop of about a hundred in the rankings from the season before. His most memorable touchdown throw of the year was only meaningful in the sense that UCLA's defense will be headhunting him in eleven months.
Add in these continuing rumors from Thoroughbred that many of his teammates despise him, and all is not well at Heritage Hall for the first time in...well, a decade. The rest of the Pac-10 couldn't be more delighted.
First, I am not going to buy the word of some anonymous poster on a rival teams blog that players on this team do not like Matt Barkley. There have been enough stories saying the opposite from actual named players, not anonymous "friends" of USC players who claim to have some "Inside Scoop". If there are players that do feel that way and said something different in the press or in private then they have to live with it. I can only go with what has been quoted by actual players...
As I said in a comment in that thread...
Performance is always tied to expectations. Rightly or wrongly Barkley was hyped…probably too much, but that’s the way it goes.
Perform better than expectations then you are the hero. Perform worse than expectations then you are the goat.
Yes, an INT is an INT but whom would be more forgiven when that crucial, game changing INT is thrown?
The Kid or the Veteran?
Perspective changes because of expectations, exposure and hype.
Respectfully, I thought the overall purpose of the post was informative I just took exception with calling Barkley out.
The second post came from Bruins Nation.
I am linking to it in order to point it out, but all the regular rules regarding BN here stand. Feel free to comment on the post for what is in it not for who wrote it or where it came from....There isn't much original substance to it (I wrote about the referenced article last week), it is more of a cut and paste job but you get the gist of the message trying to be put out.
It all goes back to what I wrote earlier...Being "a very highly touted TRUE FRESHMAN starting at the most visible position on the most visible team not only in the Pac-10 but in just about in all of college football" is going to raise your exposure, hype and the criticism of your detractors when you don't perform to some peoples expectations.
I think Barkley will be fine. It wasn't the best year for USC but I think he did better than some thought and probably right in line with where a true freshman should be...