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Matt Barkley Will Return To USC Football Team For Senior Season

James Santelli |
December 22, 2011 | 12:57 p.m. PST

Senior Sports Editor

USC quarterback Matt Barkley is giving Trojans fans just what they were clamoring for: one more year. Barkley announced Thursday that he will be returning to school for his senior season.

"This team has some serious unfinished business to attend to, and I intend to play a part in it," Barkley told reporters at Heritage Hall on Thursday afternoon. His announcement caused an eruption of cheers from fans that had gathered in the building, and the Spirit of Troy marching band to play the last bars of "Fight On!"

Matt Barkley is coming back to USC in 2012. (James Santelli/Neon Tommy)
Matt Barkley is coming back to USC in 2012. (James Santelli/Neon Tommy)

"I am staying because I want to finish what I started," Barkley added.

(Thanks to reporter Scott Enyeart for the press conference video and several of the quotes).

With their quarterback coming back instead of heading to the NFL Draft, the Trojans will return nine starters to an offense that finished 17th in the nation in points per game last season. Among those returning are five of the top six leaders in receiving yards for USC last season, including Biletnikoff Award finalist Robert Woods.

For months, the best-kept secret in Los Angeles was the future of the Trojans star QB: stay at USC or enter the 2012 NFL Draft. The stakes were high on both sides. Barkley set USC single-game records in completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns in 2011. He also excited pro scouts. ESPN's Mel Kiper ranked Barkley No. 7 of eligible NFL Draft prospects. Rob Rang of CBS Sports placed Barkley as high as No. 2.

While offensive tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry decided to forego their senior seasons to enter the Draft, Barkley joins safety T.J. McDonald as a highly-rated prospect that will be returning to USC.

When Barkley asked head coach Lane Kiffin and athletic director Pat Haden for advice, he said, "Nothing I heard deterred me from going to the NFL." He made fans a bit nervous before his announcement by saying he was "prepared to play quarterback in the NFL."

Among those Barkley sought advice from were pro agents, those in management of NFL teams, and former Trojans in the league. He made his decision a few days prior to the announcement.

That announcement came in front of a festive tree adorned with ornaments. Haden told Barkley, "Thank you, Matt, for making this Christmas a special one."

The team now looks at 17 of their 22 starters coming back in 2012. That sets high expectations for the Trojans, who will be eligible to play in a bowl game after sanctions kept them of postseason play for two seasons. USC will likely be ranked in the preseason top five this summer.

Expectations are even higher for Barkley himself, who will become a four-year starter and the first three-time captain in USC football history. As a junior, he finished sixth in voting for the Heisman Trophy.

Barkley was stellar in the final eight games of the season, throwing for 29 touchdowns and only four interceptions with a 69.7-percent completion percentage. USC's elite passing game helped the Trojans finish 10-2 with a No. 5 ranking in the Associated Press Poll.

All of this also raises expectations for Kiffin, who will be entering his third season as USC's head coach. Barkley wanted to tell his coach he was coming back in a special way. The quarterback gave his coach a Christmas ornament and had him turn it over.

On the back, the ornament read, "One more year."


Reach James by email or follow him on Twitter, @JamesSantelli.

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