NFL scouts swarm as USC holds pro day
For the first time in nearly four months, personnel from the NFL were able to evaluate former USC quarterback Matt Barkley in person on Wednesday.
After having missed the last game of the regular season against Notre Dame and the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech because of a shoulder sprain suffered in the game against UCLA, Barkley took the field with several former Trojans at USC’s pro day workout on Cromwell Field.
Barkley threw to several familiar targets, including wide receiver Robert Woods and running back Curtis McNeal, while receiving snaps from center Khaled Holmes. Joining in the workout were former Trojan tight end Dominique Byrd and receiver Brandon Carswell.
For Barkley, it was a refreshing change to be back at the school where he spent four years after spending the last two months training Florida.
“It was a great day to come out here and throw the ball around,” Barkley said. “It feels good to be back at ’SC’s campus throwing like this.”
Barkley threw about 60 passes on the day, including passes down the sideline and across the middle of the field, completing 55 of his 60 throws. He also did agility drills and ran the 40-yard dash, clocking in a time of 4.93.
The quarterback, who holds the Pac-12 record for career touchdown passes, was pleased with his overall performance, though he wasn’t completely satisfied.
“You always try to be perfect, especially on a day like this,” Barkley said.
He also pointed out that though today was important, it was not the end-all, be-all for anyone assessing his skills.
“I think a lot of the proof is in the tape. That’s where [scouts and NFL teams] look first,” Barkley said. “I think today was just proof that I still have an arm and I still [can] throw and make those passes down the field.”
Joining the offensive stars were several defenders, including safety T.J. McDonald, cornerback Nickell Robey, safety Jawanza Starling and defensive end Wes Horton. Horton, who was not invited to the NFL combine last month, was motivated to show scouts what he is capable of.
“I am happy with how it went,” Horton said. “I just came out here, showed I was fluid in my runs and all my cone drills.”
Horton said that he’s been working on his strength and explosion since the Sun Bowl.
“Just getting in that squat rack, doing a lot of sets of squats, lunges, all that stuff because I feel like I could be more explosive of a ball player,” he said. “… I want to be able to show that I have the strength to play at the next level.”
The majority of the players ran 40-yard dashes, did cone drills and participated in individual position drills as well. Notable 40 times included Robey’s 4.44 and Horton’s 4.87. The former also notched a 40.5-inch vertical leap, which would have placed him third among cornerbacks at the 2013 NFL combine.
Woods and McDonald did not run, opting to stand on their times from the combine, though they did do shuttle and cone drills. For many of the players, it will be the last time they will get to showcase themselves in front of potential employers.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, as many of the tests are somewhat tedious. Veteran center Holmes was one of the happier ones to be done with all the drills.
“I did well. It was fun. It felt like there was a little weight lifted,” Holmes said. “I don’t think I have to run another 40 ever again, so I’m looking forward to [not having to do] that.”
The draft will take place from April 25-27 in New York City. With about a month left to go before the big day, Barkley is not yet sure where he’s going to take in the experience, and doesn’t seem too concerned about it, either.
“I haven’t figured that out yet,” Barkley said.