September 8, 2009

Barkley no average freshman

COLUMBUS - If there has been one position at USC that has thrived - and it has hard to pick out only one - it would have to be the quarterbacks that have gone through the program over the years.

With names Carson Palmer, Matt Lienart, John David Booty, and most recently Mark Sanchez on the list of those who played the position for the Trojans, there would be an implied drop off with a freshman starting there for USC this season.

Apparently, that couldn't be further than the truth.

USC head coach Pete Carroll has indicated recently that freshman Matt Barkley, who recently won the starting quarterback position in fall camp, has something special about him. For whatever reason, Carroll just has a feeling that Barkley is going to be the next great Trojan quarterback.

After watching him on film after his first game, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel has an idea why that may the case.

"I can see why Pete's talking that way about Barkley," Tressel said Tuesday. "I saw him a little bit in the all-star game he was in and I can't remember which one it was, either the Army or the Under Armour or one of those, and I mean you could see he was really good there and he hasn't disappointed."

Barkley certainly didn't disappoint in his first action as the Trojans' starter on Saturday and led USC to a 56-3 drubbing of San Jose State in the Colesium.

Carroll had been quoted during fall camp saying that he wasn't going to hold the playbook back because Barkley is a freshman, but it looked as if the freshman was eased in nicely and had a fantastic game for USC.

In the end, Barkley ended up throwing for 233 yards and a touchdown while completing 15-of-19 of his passes. It was certainly an impressive debut for the freshman, and he already has people second-guessing whether or not his role could be an advantage for the Buckeyes Saturday night in the Horseshoe.

Tressel commented on how the offense the Trojans run isn't overly complicated, but just the fact that they do everything very efficiently and effectively, which is often more tough to stop than a more diverse playbook.

"You know, their ball game against San Jose State, I don't know that they did an extraordinary number of things," Tressel said, "but as you look at them throughout the course of the years, I don't know that they have a six-inch thick playbook, and I think they do what they do and you better stop what they do."

"He has obviously grasped what they do," Tressel added on Barkley, "but I thought it was -- I thought it was a typical opening game amount, they didn't overdo it, which sometimes when you overdo it with genius, you don't get execution. So it looks to me like they had the right formula for the ball game."

The one advantage it seems like Ohio State could have is the fact that the game is being played at the Horseshoe. Though the Buckeyes have been struggling with big games as of late, aside from last year's Penn State loss, Ohio State hasn't really struggled when at home.

With the crowd expected to be rather loud with over 105,000 people in attendance, it could get to the freshman. Even so, Barkley said Saturday that the crowd shouldn't faze him.

"I don't think that will make a difference," Barkley said Saturday after his college debut. "We'll do what we do best -- focus on ourselves throughout the week, focus on how we can better. You have to learn to push that stuff out. The atmosphere is probably going to be nuts. I probably don't even know how crazy it's gong to be. That won't faze me."

Perhaps the reason Barkley is already so far along in the process has to do with the fact that he went to a high school with a strong football (Mater Dei), he participated in USC's spring practices, and he got double reps when Aaron Corp went down with an injury in fall camp.

"Everything has added in to make him who he is," Carroll said on a conference call Tuesday. "The fact that he started as a freshman and threw the ball a lot in high school, to see the effect that it has had on him, he has thrown so many passes by the time he has gotten to this level. He has a great background and has great experience throwing the ball.

"To do this how he has done it and in the fashion he has done it and the time it has taken him, he had to have everything going for himself and he does," Carroll added. "He has great physical ability, he has great arm strength, he has the temperament to deal with the position, he's got the smarts to understand it. He has to have all of that, (or he wouldn't be the starter) in my opinion."

It looks like Ohio State won't be dealing with any average freshman.

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for He can be reached at [email protected].

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