Matt Barkley To Start At USC
The time is now for the superfrosh
The prodigy and the powerhouse, a coming-of-age story that’s about to hit a stadium near you this fall.
In a stunning decision Thursday, Pete Carroll announced that 18-year old Matt Barkley would be his quarterback for the opener with San Jose State and beyond. First-year signal-callers just don’t win jobs at top-shelf programs with national championship hopes, like USC, where it’s never happened in the first game of the season. This, however, is not your ordinary freshman, something the rest of the country is about to learn.
Yes, the door on the depth chart widened after third-year sophomore Aaron Corp fractured a bone in his leg, but Barkley took this job and made the decision for the coaching staff surprisingly clear. He was simply better. Better than Corp. Better than Mitch Mustain. Better than anyone in the program expected. Since arriving from Mater Dei (Calif.) High School in the spring, it was obvious he was different than any rookie Trojan in recent memory. And it wasn’t his physical skills that drew the most attention. Sure, Barkley has remarkable arm strength and accuracy, but those alone wouldn’t have made the leap from high school to the keys of the USC offense possible.
Barkley is unique in ways that stand out most to coaches. He’s mature beyond his years, competitive, and has already earned the respect of veteran teammates. He has a quiet confidence and a swagger that will settle down even the most skittish huddle. And he possesses the instincts and feel for the position that cannot be taught. Simply, he was born to be a big-time quarterback. That he was born in 1990 makes this development so remarkable.
Does Barkley remain in the driver’s seat for all 13 games? It’s up to him. The pressure to keep the train on the tracks at Troy will be immense and the schedule has plenty of landmines, beginning with the Week 2 trip to Columbus. There’s no manual to prepare a young quarterback for a night game at the ‘Shoe. He has tested the boundaries of expectations throughout his brief athletic career, meaning you might not want to doubt him. And what about Corp? So impressive in beating out Mustain for the No. 2 spot a year ago and seemingly the heir apparent once Mark Sanchez bolted, he’s left to wonder if his window of opportunity is about to shut. Although Carroll considers competition a cornerstone of his program, a successful Barkley might not look back until after declaring early for the 2012 NFL Draft.
So, one of the highest-profile programs in the country has a true freshman as its leading man behind center. Now what? The playbook won’t be compromised, or else the kid wouldn’t have gotten the nod. It’s business as usual at USC until proven otherwise. For Carroll, who has as much goodwill as any coach this side of Gainesville, it’s a low-risk move, with an awful lot to gain. If Barkley can’t deliver, the coach has a couple of five-star recruits waiting in the wings. Plus, he knows that his young hurler won’t be shaken by a rough start. If the kid flourishes, Carroll becomes the genius coach, who was not afraid to give the ball to a rookie, another huge talking point on the recruiting trail. Heck, this is the same Carroll, who was ready to pull the trigger on starting a young John David Booty a few years ago before injuries changed the blueprint?
It turns out that the buzz surrounding Barkley in the spring was real and just a sneak peek of what was about to come. Now that he’s earned his first start a few days before his nineteenth birthday, things are about to get real interesting for the boy wonder and everyone that follows his budding career.