College football opened play this weekend with some big stories on the Week 1 docket; Clemson vs Auburn, Michigan vs Alabama, new coaches in Ohio State and Penn State, new rules concerning kickoffs and helmets flying off. Out west #1 Southern California hosted former USC Offensive Coordinator and now Head Coach of the University of Hawaii, Norm Chow’s Warriors. The Trojans dismantled the overmatched “Haka dancers” 49-10.
USC handling the pressure
This is a big season for Lane Kiffin’s squad. Anointed the preseason favorite to win the college football’s version of a National Championship (I’ll save that for another post), USC is legitimately loaded with NFL caliber talent. At the top of that prospect list is another anointed favorite, Matt Barkley. Barkley petitioned the NFL Underclass Advisory Committee last season in hopes of hearing his chances of being one of the top players picked in the 2012 NFL Draft. The official story is he decided to return to school to help USC pursue that “Championship” I was speaking of. I hope the real reason was to experience and enjoy his last season at USC and to graduate with his degree. I think a more realistic assessment is the report presented of his abilities by the Committee.
Barkley is a talented and productive QB, playing for one of the top programs in the country. He is also surrounded by some of the most gifted collegiate athletes at their positions. Watching USC take care of Hawaii reminded me of my own evaluation of Barkley done as a consultant for an NFL team last spring. I saw a lot of the same things in the 2012 USC opener that I saw throughout his junior year. Before you turn in your own Heisman ballot (hypothetically speaking of course) don’t let the likes of Mel Kiper, or Todd McShay, or Mike Mayock sway your vote. In fact watch a few games and do a little research yourself, you might just be surprised. After doing the same a few months ago, it was my conclusion that Barkley wasn’t ready to enter the NFL, at least not at the level he was being touted.
It’s amazing the momentum and synergy the media can create. If it wants something to happen, it’ll make it happen. Far too many young QB’s have been pushed to the forefront of the first round of the NFL Draft, only to crash and burn a season or two later. Ultimately it’s the responsibility of the NFL club that selected them and not the “hype machine” that pushed them to the top. But NFL Owners, General Managers, and Head Coaches are only human, they’re just as susceptible to groupthink as the rest of us. There are far too many examples to single out any specific first round bust, but I could probably name two former USC QB’s that are currently active in the NFL with my eyes closed.
I get by with a little help from my friends
A lot and I do mean a lot of Matt Barkley’s success can be attributed to one of the most physically gifted receiver corps in the country. Case in point, on the first play from scrimmage against the Warrior defense, Barkley hit Marqise Lee with a ball thrown just a couple yards downfield. Lee cut inside and then back out to leave the defensive corner in his wake, sprinting 75 yards for the touchdown. Barkley was rightfully credited with a 75 yard TD pass. Those tasked with following such things will see a “75 yard TD pass”. NFL Scouts will conversely see a routine quick out to an NCAA sprinter & long jumper who overmatched the Warrior secondary with his short area quickness and straight line speed for another “big play” score.
Don’t get me wrong, I wish Matt Barkley all the best in his final season. I applaud him for staying in school, staying with his teammates, and going on towards attaining his degree. I hope he continues to grow as both a quarterback and team leader, and that if playing in the NFL is a goal of his, that he reaches that goal. But purely from a professional standpoint, and as one who’s actually been in a War Room and partaken in these types of decisions, I would ask the Heisman voters, Trojan fans, football junkies and all those that put credence into everything they hear in pre and post game football shows, not to mention early mock drafts for 2013 (are you kidding me?), to hold your horses and do your homework.