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2013 NFL Draft: How Matt Barkley, Fellow Trojans Stack Up

Jeremy Shapiro |
February 4, 2013 | 10:27 p.m. PST

Staff Writer

Although Barkley didn't settle "unfinished business" as he'd hoped, he could creep into the April draft's Top 10. (Shotgun Spratling/Neon Tommy)
Although Barkley didn't settle "unfinished business" as he'd hoped, he could creep into the April draft's Top 10. (Shotgun Spratling/Neon Tommy)
The NFL season encompassed many unpredictable storylines throughout the year, highlighted by egregious calls by the replacement referees, out-of-this-world comebacks from Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning and two scowling brothers facing off in the Super Bowl. Football fans sighed collectively as the seconds wound off the clock in Sunday night's historic game. Sundays now go from the best day of the week—the perfect cap to a football fan’s weekend—to the worst. We now have to wait seven months before we can even sniff the pigskin. Hardcore fans now turn their attention to the NFL Draft, one of the league's most cherished days, which gives even the most bleak NFL franchises hope for the future.

Despite USC’s unacceptable 7-6 record, the team was flooded with NFL talent. Particularly, four cornerstone Trojans will enter the 2013 NFL Draft: quarterback Matt Barkley, center Khaled Holmes, wide receiver Robert Woods, and safety TJ McDonald.

McDonald has the NFL pedigree that scouts covet—his father Tim McDonald played for 13 years in the NFL, and his brother, Tevon, is the starting free safety for the UCLA Bruins. McDonald, the Trojans' defensive leader, was adequate last season. He was reliable in the run game, occasionally flashed big plays in the passing game, evident by his two interceptions, but never elevated his play to the next level after deciding he was going to forego the NFL Draft last year and return for his senior season. McDonald is an instinctive player, who is capable of coming up to the line and helping in run support, or playing the deep, ball-hawking free safety position. His dynamic ability will stand out during a year where the draft features a thin safety class. Look for McDonald to be drafted in the second half of the second round in the upcoming draft.

Matt Barkley’s decision to return for his senior year after potentially being selected in the top 10 picks of the 2012 Draft came with insurmountable expectations. Many believed that in order for Barkley’s "unfinished business" pronouncement to be considered successful, he would have to win the National Championship, the Heisman Trophy and be selected first in the draft. Barkley’s season was a mixed bag—he had some big games, specifically against Utah, Arizona and Oregon, displaying sharp accuracy and a knack for getting the ball to playmakers down the field.

It was well established before the season that Barkley lacked the elite size, arm and mobility that make scouts drool, but he also displayed questionable decision-making, leading to 15 interceptions—eight more than he threw his junior year. Barkley will not be the first pick in the NFL Draft like many expected in the preseason, but he can find a home with a team as a West Coast passer who relies on timing routes. He can make any throw on the field, and possesses the leadership and intangibles that will aid him in the interview process. While some question if Barkley should be selected in the first round, with a solid Pro Day and combine process, don’t sleep on Barkley sneaking his way back into the top 10 picks come April.

Robert Woods flew under the radar this season after shattering Pac-12 records his sophomore year, but is still regarded as one of the top wide receiver prospects in the draft. The physical receiver is as crisp of a route-runner as there is in college football, and possesses deceptive speed. Woods is an all-round receiver, who can beat you deep or cross you up at the line with his buttery footwork. His most impressive game of the season came against Notre Dame, where he was able to fight off double-coverage and serve as Max Wittek’s security blanket for the majority of the game. If Woods can run the 40-yard dash somewhere in the 4.4 range, he could creep into the end of the first round; however, it is more likely that the All-American will be snatched up somewhere in the second round.

Holmes will remain in the NFL for years to come. (Scott Enyeart/Neon Tommy)
Holmes will remain in the NFL for years to come. (Scott Enyeart/Neon Tommy)
Khaled Holmes, a staple on the offensive line for the past three years, was the backbone of the Trojans' offense. The All-American center displayed great versatility playing any of the interior positions on the offensive line. Although not a dominant specimen, Holmes is fundamentally sound and is capable of excelling in both run and pass protection.

After getting off to a rough start against Utah’s behemoth defensive tackle and elite NFL prospect Star Lotulelei, Holmes made him a nonfactor for the majority of the game. Holmes’ importance to the Trojans' offense was evident against the Stanford Cardinal, who held the Trojans to 14 points in their first loss of the season after Holmes injured his ankle and was replaced by a true freshman at center. Stanford, who had the nation's best run defense, teed off against USC's depleted offensive line. Holmes displays the acumen that is essential for centers in the NFL and has potential to start in the league from day one. Look for Holmes to be selected somewhere in the third round of the draft and excel as a longstanding veteran in the NFL.

Barkley, Woods, McDonald and Holmes served as the foundation of the Trojans for the last several years. They selflessly returned for their senior seasons (with the exception of Woods, who is leaving after his junior season) after enduring the highs and lows of the USC football program stemming from the NCAA-imposed sanctions. It is exciting to see members of the Trojan Family live out their dreams. In return for their ample contributions to Troy, these individuals will be remembered fondly for years to come. 

Reach Staff Writer Jeremy Shapiro here.



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