Remember Matt Barkley?
Yeah, I know. Geno Smith has been the hottest quarterback prospect in the nation through six weeks of the season, but Barkley entered his senior season with plenty of hype. After a hot and cold start to the season, Barkley threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns against Utah last Thursday. Barkley is attempting to reassure talent evaluators that he is in fact the top quarterback in the 2013 class.
I watched every one of Barkley's throws from Thursday night, courtesy of JMPasq. If you are not subscribed to his You Tube channel and following him on Twitter, make sure you do so. I've embedded the video for reference.
1st Quarter - 7-8, 58 yards, no touchdowns, two fumbles lost
5 screens - USC's offense relies heavily on the screen pass, due in part to the struggling offensive line. Barkley is able to pad his stats with these high percentage throws.
11:10 - Barkley avoids the rush, keeps his eyes down field and delivers a strike down the middle of the field. Shows excellent pocket awareness and mobility to avoid the rush and buy time. His receiver was wide open, but Barkley delivered a strong pass and kept his eyes downfield long enough to find him.
8: 35 - Barkley seems to feel phantom pressure and slides to his right instead of stepping up into a relatively clean pocket. Still, Barkley is able to make a strong, accurate throw on the move to pick up a first down.
3:51 - Barkley doesn't step into this throw because of pressure, which hasn't quite arrived yet. Throwing off of his back foot, Barkley puts perfect touch and accuracy on a medium-range pass to his wide receiver. While he may have had time to step into the throw, Barkley does a solid job of feeling the rush and keeping his eyes down field.
Barkley also lost two fumbles in the first quarter, putting the Trojans in an early hole. Center Khaled Holmes deserves the majority of blame for both fumbles, as the snaps were terrible, but Barkley has to find a way to retain possession on those plays.
2nd Quarter - 5-7, 92 yards, 2 touchdowns
14:32 - Barkley and his receiver are not on the same page, and Barkley tosses a fade right to a Utah defender. Lucky for Barkley, the defensive back dropped the interception.
8:42 - Barkley hangs in the pocket, allowing Robert Woods to get open over the middle, and hits him in stride for a big gain. Accurate throw with excellent placement.
8:05 - Barkley executes an effective pump fake and delivers a catchable ball to the endzone into single coverage. The pass was broken up, but Barkley made a nice play.
8:01 - Barkley sells the play action, albeit lazily, and effectively works through his first read. His tight end comes open on the right side, and Barkley fits a deep pass to him beautifully. The throw was well-timed and perfectly-placed.
4:43 - Barkley gets an easy touchdown. Robert Woods is wide open on the play, though he was Barkley's second read, which is encouraging.
3rd Quarter 8-9, 74 yards
:31 - Barkley sells the play action very well and makes a strong accurate throw on the run. Barkley has underrated athleticism. He won't take off and burn the defense on a scramble, but he can makes plays on the move and menuever around the pocket smoothly.
4th Quarter - 3-6, 88 yards, 1 touchdown
14:19 - Barkley, once again on a play action pass, throws an accurate strike to the endzone, only to have his receiver drop a touchdown. The ball was well placed, and Barkley displayed perfect mechanics on the throw. The only thing missing was the catch.
12:21 - Barkley executes another play action pass, but this time he fires a deep ball down the middle of the field on target for an 83-yard touchdown. The ball was ever-so-slightly under thrown, but Lee made the adjustment easily, beating the defense to the goal line. Barkley's arm strength is not elite, but the throw was an impressive one.
Matt Barkley has been taking a lot of heat lately, but Thursday's performance against Utah was a step in the right direction. He was throwing the accurate, well-placed passes that made his junior year a success. Barkley's arm is not a rocket, but he can make some tough throws. The most impressive trait he displayed was his athleticism. He moved around the pocket well and made strong plays on the run. USC's offense still has too much dink and dunk for my liking, but Barkley definitely took his fair share of shots down the field in this one.
Geno Smith isn't slowing down any time soon, so Barkley has to string together a few more of these performances to be the first quarterback taken in April.