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Old 02-22-2013, 12:58 PM   #1337
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2013 NFL Combine: Barkley shows polish that makes him 2013's top QB
By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/
February 22, 2013 12:31 pm ET

Barkley's poise on and off the field will be highly valued by NFL teams. (USATSI)
A day after Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray was noticeably nervous answering questions from the media, USC's Matt Barkley demonstrated the confidence in the spotlight expected following his four seasons as the starting quarterback in a Los Angeles market without an NFL team.

Barkley, who measured in slightly taller than expected 6-foot-2 and weighed 227 pounds with with 10-1/8 inch hands, confirmed that he would not be throwing in Indianapolis. Barkley did say he was was "100 percent on track" to throw at his March 27 Pro Day at the USC campus.

Not surprisingly, Barkley disagreed when asked to comment on the opinion some have that he lacks the arm strength to succeed in the NFL.

"I would disagree. Watch the tape. I can make every NFL throw that you need," Barkley said.

I agree with him, which is one of the reasons why I project the former USC quarterback to be the first passer selected in the 2013 draft.

Barkley, who started 47 games at USC in a pro-style offense, completed 64 percent of his passes for 12,327 yards and 116 touchdowns against 48 interceptions over his career.

The perception created by some in the media is that Barkley's stock slid considerably during the past year. Clearly, statistically-speaking, he wasn't as productive as a senior following "breakout" junior campaign in which he threw for a career high 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.

Barkley surprised many with his decision to return for his senior campaign and wasn't as successful, watching his yards (3,723) and touchdowns (36) drop while his interceptions more than doubled (15). After throwing multiple interceptions just one time in 2011, he had a troubling six games with multiple interceptions as a senior. In his final four games before suffering a shoulder injury against UCLA that ended his career, he threw nine interceptions.

Because of the injury, Barkley was unavailable for the Senior Bowl and this week's combine.

Barkley's production dropped despite throwing to arguably the top wide receiver duo in college football with sophomore Marqise Lee and fellow 2013 NFL prospect Robert Woods.

Lost a bit amid the scrutiny of Barkley's disappointing 2012 campaign was the impact of having a new left tackle trying to protect him. Barkley had been able to rely on Matt Kalil protecting his blindside for his first three seasons before being drafted by the Minnesotat Vikings. Barkley clearly took more hits in 2012 with the Trojans rotating two inexperienced players, sophomore Aundrey Walker and true freshman Max Toerk, at the position.

In large part due to their playmaking receivers, Barkley was often perceived as a bit of a game-manager at USC. It is important to note the difference in the Trojans' offensive output during his 11 starts in 2012 as compared to the two games in which he was sidelined with injury.

With Barkley in the lineup, USC averaged 36 points a game. USC averaged just 10 points in losses to Notre Dame and Georgia Tech with Max Wittek at the helm. Wittek, for what it's worth, boasts a noticeably stronger arm than Barkley.

As has been proven many times in the past, possessing an arm strong enough to make NFL throws is only one part of the skill-set required to be a successful quarterback. While Barkley might not possess a howitzer, he earns the highest grades of any passer in the 2013 draft in the "Three A's" -- accuracy, awareness and anticipation -- the traits I believe to be most important at the position.
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