By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
As I reveal my top quarterback prospects of the 2013 Draft you’ll see I have a player at #1 who is considered by many scouts, experts and fans as the best QB prospect at this point. The cool Californian doesn’t just look like a surfer dude; he has the relaxed yet upbeat demeanor of a guy who just spent a day out on the waves.
Matt Barkley decided to return to Southern California for his senior year and handle what he called “unfinished business”; the Trojans’ bowl ban is finally lifted and they’re fielding a team ranked third overall by the coaches just behind LSU and Alabama in the preseason polls.
Barkley will team with two elite college wide outs, Robert Woods and Marquis Lee, to lead a potent Trojans attack. As you watch USC play you’ll look for that special throw from Barkley, that one single play that assures you he’s worth the hype. Problem is, you probably won’t see such a play because the fact is, Barkley is as unspectacular a potential number one overall pick could be.
Confused? It’s only natural. Nobody watches Sportcenter to see a well-run pick and roll, or the routine fly ball, but they’re as important to the outcome as the 360 slam in basketball.
Barkley’s physical tools are described by many scouts and draftniks as slightly above average or even plain middle of the road. He doesn’t spin it across the field as effortlessly as the Razorbacks Tyler Wilson or the have the muscular 6’6 frame of Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas. If you rank prospects based on athletic prowess or potential, Barkley might not make the top five. So how is he the census #1 overall pick by so many so called experts?
What makes Barkley so good and reliable a player is not his physical traits. The quarterback position is the most scrutinized, glorified and important position in all of sports. You are held to a higher standard on and off the field. You must be an intelligent leader and shoulder tremendous responsibility. Those qualities are right in Barkley’s proverbial wheelhouse.
He starred at famed Mater Dei High School, which was once attended by former Trojan and far flashier quarterback Todd Marinovich. He signed with his beloved hometown Trojans and has started all but two games for the last three years and done more than just start. Barkley has scorched Pac 12 opponents with a career stat-line of 9,054 passing yards, 80 TD and only 33 picks and he started out strong right from the beginning.
After winning the starting role prior to the season Barkley faced the highly touted Ohio State Buckeyes in just his second game. Throughout the contest the young freshman looked poised and in control despite playing in front of a hostile and sold-out crowd at “The Horseshoe”. He would eventually lead the Trojans on an 86 yard game-clinching score to pull out the victory.
From that point on people began to take notice. He would guide the program through some troubled waters including the Reggie Bush benefit fiasco and subsequent loss of scholarships and a postseason ban. He simply kept on producing demonstrating the less sexy attributes of intelligence, composer, character and leadership. This year in his junior campaign he threw 39 TD to only 7 INT. By the time his junior season ended he became an incredibly productive and experienced prospect as he soared to the top of #1 overall pick discussion.
Despite all that production, Barkley will be debated over and moved up and down draft boards throughout the year. For the record, I love the big, strong armed Logan Thomas and his Roethlisberger-like refusal to go down and could very well end up putting him above Barkley when its all said and done. Tyler Wilson and his live arm should also impress and he will have played against better competition in the vaunted SEC.
Barkley also benefited from weak defensive opponents and great offensive weapons. His physical abilities are good enough as opposed to elite. His slightly above average arm is more than adequate however, and he shows nice accuracy at all levels. He is very savvy; for example he gets safeties to bite on a double move by an effective pump fake. Barkley’s strength is his grasp of the intricacies of the position and not raw talent alone.
It’s his low floor and not a high ceiling that makes him an attractive prospect.
As the season goes on and the draft looms closer the beauty will be in the eye of the beholder. A lot will depend on a simple height measurement. Barkley is listed on the USC website as 6’2 and according to many scouts like ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. that needs to be accurate for him to be a top pick. You’ll hear Mel mention that 28 of the 32 starting quarterbacks met the 6’2 or higher cut-off.
However, Barkley’s game has never been defined by physical measurements.His value comes from solid fundamentals like footwork and consistent mechanics not breathe taking speed or arm strength. Barkley simply makes winning plays and it’s not how he does it that is important but the fact he does.
It’s just like turning in a score card at the end of a round of golf; there is no room for description, just a score. They don’t ask how, just how many.