Spring football is officially over at USC. The annual spring game held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum gave the team and fans the final taste of Trojan football until fall.
Matt Barkley has constantly been in the spotlight since his decision to forgo the 2011 NFL draft. Like his team, Barkley has received significant hype — even greater than that of previous seasons- — surrounding the possibility of him earning the most esteemed award in college football — the Heisman Trophy.
Though Barkley fell short of the Heisman voting last season (he finished sixth), college football addicts can only fathom what possibilities exist. With so much hype surrounding Barkley’s potential performance, Trojan fans are fixed on how well he performed during the annual spring game.
On Saturday, Barkley was 23 of 39 for 212 yards with one touchdown and one interception during the 91-play game. Barkley split the bulk of playing time with redshirt freshman backup quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek. Barkley’s performance, however, left some questioning whether he will live up to the immense praise he has received and if he will become the school’s third Heisman-winning quarterback.
Despite the lackluster performance in the spring game, Barkley is still worthy of Heisman buzz.
Since Barkley’s earliest days at USC, he has improved immensely. After enrolling in spring 2009, Barkley easily earned the starting quarterback position after an impressive performance during spring practices. It was no surprise that then-coach Pete Carroll decided to start Barkley as a true freshman.
In his first season at USC, Barkley threw 211-352 (59.9 percent) for 2,735 yards, 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Barkley’s performance earned him numerous accolades, such as being a semifinalist for the 2009 Davey O’Brien Award and the 2009 CollegeFootballNews.com freshman all-American honorable mention — in addition to winning the Emerald Bowl against Boston College.
Following Carroll’s departure, Barkley has clearly thrived under the tutelage of USC coach Lane Kiffin. During 2010, Barkley’s sophomore season, he threw 236-377 (62.6 percent) for 2,791 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Barkley was launched into the national spotlight and earned all-conference honors.
Barkley’s third season for the Trojans demonstrated why he ranks as one of the best in the country. The 2011 season was the most fruitful. Not only did the Trojans upset ranked and conference rival Oregon in Eugene, USC almost defeated ranked Stanford in triple overtime, ending the last season with an overall record of 10-2.
Barkley was 307-446 (69.1 percent) for 3,528 yards throwing 39 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Aside from finishing sixth in Heisman voting, he was a finalist for the Manning Award, Walter Camp Award, Maxwell Award and Davey O’Brien Award. He won the 2011 College Football Performance Awards National Performer of the Year, Pac-12 Player of the Week, along with numerous others.
Barkley’s improvement during his career at USC points to the fact that he is worthy of consideration in pre-season Heisman discussion. Trojan fans should not fret after seeing Barkley’s performance Saturday because USC does not kick off the 2012 season until Sept. 1.
Keep in mind, most of the spring football practice reps at quarterback have been divvied up between Wittek and Kessler, who are battling for the back-up position. Though Barkley had offensive weapon sophomore receiver Marqise Lee, he is still missing one of his other favorite targets — sophomore receiver Robert Woods.
And don’t forget that the Heisman is awarded to the player that has not only succeeded individually, but has also led his team significantly.
With that in mind, Barkley should have just as good a chance as anyone for the Heisman. Now all he has to do is deliver.
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