For years, USC has been obsessed with potent quarterbacks. They were obsessed with Carlson Palmer’s powerful arm, Matt Leinart’s accuracy, John David Booty’s decision-making, and Mark Sanchez’s mobility.
I’m sure you were shocked when true freshman Matt Barkley was named the starting quarterback. It was a bold move for Pete Carroll, one of college football’s successful coaches, trusting an inexperienced quarterback to engineer a potent program that’s expecting to capture a national championship.
After faltering in previous seasons, the Trojans are anxious, starving, and determined to repossess the exhilaration of winning all their PAC-10 games after collapsing in the prior two seasons to Stanford and Oregon State.
Each were heart-rending losses that hindered USC's chances of capturing a national title. And Carroll, the mastermind who rejuvenated the Trojans with brilliant recruiting and coaching methods, puts his trust in and gives the ball to the No. 1 recruit in the nation.
Barkley was confident, raw and eager to lead the Trojans out of the Coliseum in the season opener.
Before he would let Carroll speculate if Aaron Corp or Mitch Mustain was next in line to gain the spotlight and hurl passes to a core of quality receivers, Barkley played so well that he proved his wishes weren’t surreal, but reality.
Imprinting a page in the history books, Barkley will become the first true freshman to start a season opener for the Trojans.
It is risky, and was a tough decision to pick a self-assured 18-year old with raw talent. At a young age, he will be faced with the pressures and huge burdens in a prestigious program that expects to collect hardware and celebrate victories each year.
Other than roses, the Trojans are expected to win the big one, the National Championship. And if this is to occur, much will be demanded of Barkley. His leadership, athleticism and maturity will be an essential part in how well the Trojans perform this season and beyond.
Known for their fabulous rush attack, a speedy Joe McKnight, who has been compared to former Trojan running back Reggie Bush, and an electric Stafon Johnson anchor a high-powered offense that has excited USC fans over the years.
However, Barkley is trying to be the difference in what the Trojans presume is a moment to shine and jettison all the nightmarish times of heartbreaking losses in recent seasons.
Is it just me, or can we trust in Barkley?
I’ll say if we trust in Carroll’s pickings and coaching approach, we should trust in Barkley. Assuming he knows the type of quarterback he has given full pledge in running this offense, Berkley is the right player beckoned by the intelligence of Carroll.
He understands Barkley’s strengths and weaknesses, and understands the latter can end a season of perfection. A few errant throws to surrender a game against an inferior team would cause the Trojans to drop drastically in the AP poll.
Falling out of the top five will have them fighting against the BCS, rather than fighting against the conference. It's a disadvantage they refuse to withstand this season, and Barkley is counted on to reproduce a familiar scenario.
To compete with teams such as Florida, Oklahoma and Texas, Barkley has a chance to dictate the entire season if he manages to play efficiently.
Getting the nod over Corp is an indication that Barkley is capable and ready to elevate into spotlight, along with living the college life with multiple textbooks, classes and a sense of knowledge by coming to USC a year early to prepare.
But he’s getting more of a nod, surprisingly after Corp was more accustomed to the offensive system and was impressive at the mock game. By weighing starting honors against health status, Barkley is better off starting against San Jose State on Sept. 5.
In early August, Corp suffered a cracked fibula and hasn't fully recovered, but will still play if Barkley falters in the game to avoid an upsetting loss.
So despite wondering what kind of talent he’ll bring to the game and wondering how he can espouse winning among the nation's ultra-elite, it's clear that Barkley has potential and will be exciting to watch.
At high school, under the Friday Night Lights, the Mater Dei product was enthralling to watch.
And even he has facts to affirm his ability in a full season, if he’s able to endure the role as a starter. He was named 2007 Gatorade’s Male Athlete of the Year and throw 54.5 percent for 2,877 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions before enrolling into USC. He impressed Carroll enough to empower the coach to make a faster choice, but doomed Corp’s chances, forcing him to wait.
The way the Trojans dominate is by composure and confidence. If Barkley plays with excellent poise and stays unflappable, he’s then trusted to engineer the Trojans to multiple titles during a decisive stint with sturdy mechanics, ingenious footwork and firmness as a pocket passer.
After winning two national titles and compiling a record of 88-15 in eight seasons at USC to overwhelm us, there’s no questioning any decisions Carroll makes. His decision-making doesn't usually produce bad results, and they often turn into gratifying victories.
So, trusting the legendary coach who was obsessed with every quarterback he has ever coached, including his obsession with Barkley, means you have to trust in the talented freshman.
Trust Barkley, as some say he understands the offensive schemes better than Sanchez, Palmer, Booty, and Leinart.