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Solid USC Pro Day Should Cement Matt Barkley's First-Round Status

Annette Irwin |
March 28, 2013 | 12:55 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Barkley will not be the fastest QB, but he has other strong attributes. (Danny Lee/NT)
Barkley will not be the fastest QB, but he has other strong attributes. (Danny Lee/NT)

We are about a month away from the much anticipated 2013 NFL Draft. Prospects are getting their last workouts in to impress the scouts and boost their stock. One such touted yet questionable prospect – Matt Barkley – has patiently waited for his chance to prove doubters wrong at USC’s pro day.

A sunny, warm Wednesday at USC's Cromwell field presented a perfect setting for Barkley to shine in front of scouts from 31 of the 32 teams. For the first time since injuring his shoulder against UCLA in November, Barkley has the opportunity to publicly dismiss any questions regarding his arm. After not participating in the Senior Bowl in January or the NFL combine in February, Barkley had to excel at Trojans’ pro day to put him in a position as the best quarterback in the upcoming draft.

Overall, it was a good, not spectacular, day for the four-year starter.  In center stage in front of hundreds of onlookers, Barkley did just enough to prove his strengths. He was proficient as he completed an unofficial 56-of-62 attempts with two dropped balls in his passing display. He showed some good footwork and placement of the ball. For months, experts have criticized Barkley’s arm strength and downfield accuracy. Matt dispelled those trepidations as his deep ball accuracy was a strong point in his workout. He showed what his arm is: it’s good but not elite.

Prior to the pro day, Barkley was projected to be the second QB drafted, behind West Virginia’s Geno Smith. It was widely believed if Barkley put on a great display he could catch Smith. He stated his shoulder “felt fine.” He proved his shoulder was not a problem. He doesn’t have to have an elite arm to succeed in the NFL, but Barkley was efficient in many aspects Wednesday. It was good for scouts to see his different throws from five yards to 50 yards, something he was unable to exhibit in the combine.

PRO DAY: How did USC's other prospects perform?

There is still the underlying question of whether he can make positive plays when the pocket collapses and plays break down. It’s not a surprise Barkley isn’t the most mobile quarterback, as he timed a 4.95 and 4.97 in the 40-yard dash. He’s not looking to be the next read option. His pocket presence and poise is one of his strengths, but in 2012 he had trouble with this as he forced some passes when under duress.

Barkley showed his arm is in fine shape. (Danny Lee/NT)
Barkley showed his arm is in fine shape. (Danny Lee/NT)
Barkley couldn't prove positive plays when things break down on Wednesday. He could only show off his arm. Scouts were able to witness his throwing motion and velocity. Quarterbacks should have no problem in pro days. For weeks, they practice certain passes and routes with their wide receivers. He hit his passes on target to Robert Woods, Travon Patterson and Curtis McNeal. A few times, he overthrew his receivers and other times they had to make leap catches. What you saw is what what his eventual team will get with Matt’s arm.

But what you can’t see in that 45-minute passing show are his intangibles.

Barkley may have had a disappointing 2012 campaign, but let’s not discount the prior three years. Barkley’s experience and poise are attributes that not many quarterbacks entering the draft possess. He started as a freshman for a high-profiled program where the lights shine brightest on highly-touted passers. He pushed through the dark days of sanctions. Can’t forget his stellar junior year when he threw 39 touchdowns for 3,528 yards, completed 69 percent of his passes and only was picked off seven times. Problem is, scouts want to see improvement. Instead, Barkley took a few steps back. He did record 36 touchdowns, but he threw 15 interceptions, the most in his four years as a Trojan and a number that doesn’t exactly shout out Franchise Quarterback.

PHOTOS: Go on the field at USC's pro day.

"A lot of the proof is in the tape -- that's where they look first," Barkley said after his workout. "But today was proof that I can still throw and make those passes down the field."

Matt is right. Everything scouts need to know about Barkley is in the videos. What they wanted to see Wednesday afternoon was his ability to throw deep, accurate and with velocity. He proved just enough that he can throw those deep balls. There were whispers that he doesn’t throw a “tight spiral” as he threw into the wind. Then again, Barkley never has thrown a perfect spiral even coming out of high school. Pro day didn’t serve as a time for Barkley to “wow” the scouts. It was important for him to come out and quiet the critics. It’s safe to say silenced many.

Barkley is a talented young man with a lot of potential to do good things at the next level. This pro day should cement his first round draft status. Teams like Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders, New York Jets and Cleveland Browns are all looking for quarterbacks. Matt Barkley just might be their guy.

Reach Staff Writer Annette Irwin here or follow her on Twitter.



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