In early December, Lane Kiffin expressed confidence that Matt Barkley would be recovered enough from a shoulder injury to play in USC’s bowl game. Less than a week ago, it looked doubtful the senior would take the field for what would be the final game of his collegiate career.
With the Trojans’ Sun Bowl matchup with Georgia Tech just four days away, the will he/won’t he question has finally and officially been answered.
In an announcement that seemed to be a foregone conclusion for at least a week, Kiffin confirmed Thursday that Barkley will not play in USC’s first postseason game since the quarterback’s freshman season. Barkley suffered the shoulder injury in the UCLA loss and missed the regular-season finale against Notre Dame because of it.
Kiffin said Barkley wanted to play, but doctors would not medically clear him to do so. “I’ll be here with my team to finish strong. Proud to be a Trojan!” Barkley wrote in a tweet posted to his Twitter account.
As was the case in the game against the Irish, Max Wittek will get the start at quarterback for the Trojans, Kiffin confirmed.
And, just like that, one of the most star-crossed careers a high-profile player at the FBS level has endured in many a year has come to an end.
Barkley was a highly-touted five-star member of USC’s 2009 recruiting class, rated as the No. 1 quarterback and the No. 5 player at any position in the country. After enrolling early in January of 2009, the Newport Beach, Calif., native won the starting job coming out of that first spring practice and went on to start 47 of the 50 games the Trojans played during his four-year career, with the only three games he missed due to an injury his freshman, sophomore and senior seasons. The Trojans were 34-13 in games in which Barkley started, 0-3 in games he didn’t.
As expected from a player who both started nearly four dozen games and played in a pass-happy offense, Barkley set a slew of school and conference records during his statistically prolific career. He currently owns 20 USC career, season and game records, 10 of which are Pac-12 marks, including career total offense (12,214), passing yards (12,327), completions (1,011), passing touchdowns (116) and rushing/passing touchdowns (122). The school records owned by Barkley include most career 400-yard passing games (4); most career 300-yard passing games (15); most yards passing, game (493); and most touchdown passes, game (six, twice).
Despite all of the shiny numbers, Barkley’s career was marked by a series of disappointments, none more so than the NCAA sanctions that throttled the football program. Thanks to the punitive measures levied by The Association over the Reggie Bush impermissible benefits scandal, USC was banned from participating in the postseason — including the inaugural Pac-12 championship game last year as well as bowl games — in 2010 and 2011. So, thanks to those sanctions plus this injury, Barkley’s career will end with just one bowl appearance — the 2009 Emerald Bowl, a 24-13 win over Boston College.
Another oddity when it comes to a player of Barkley’s status and as the holder of a handful of conference records? He never once was named to the first-team All-Pac-12 squads in any of his four seasons, and just once (2011) did he earn second-team all-conference honors. In 2010 and then again this season, he was named honorable mention.
The biggest disappointment, though, might’ve been this season. Entering 2012 ranked as the No. 1 team in the country by the Associated Press, and No. 3 according to the coaches, the Trojans lost four of their last five games to finish a disappointing regular season at 7-5.
Barkley also entered 2012 as the prohibitive Heisman front-runner before giving way to the likes of Geno Smith, Collin Klein and eventual winner Johnny Manziel. Instead of Barkley, it was teammate and wide receiver Marqise Lee receiving the Heisman push from USC at season’s end, with the true sophomore finishing fourth in the balloting and just missing a trip to New York City as one of the Heisman finalists.
Losses and turnovers were the story of Barkley’s final season at the Los Angeles school, with the former number of five matching 2010 for the most in Barkley’s tenure. After throwing just seven interceptions in 446 attempts last season, Barkley set a career-high with 15 in 387 attempts this year.
The subpar 2012 season both personally and team-wise came nearly a year after Barkley eschewed what would’ve been a surefire shot at being top-10 selection in the April NFL draft for another year with the Trojans. That decision could prove to be costly for Barkley as, even given the utter dearth of top-shelf talent at his position, he’s considered at the moment by many a draft observer to be a late first-round pick.