Matt Barkley tape review vs Virginia (2010)

Thanks again to the excellent Draft Breakdown for providing game tape that goes beyond highlights. Today we have a close look at USC quarterback Matt Barkley, a player many consider to be one of the top rated NFL prospects in college football. He’ll be a true junior in 2011 having started as a freshman, but it’s unclear whether he’ll declare for next year’s draft. In 2012 sanctions will be lifted on USC allowing them to participate in a BCS Bowl and that could be tempting enough for Barkley to return for a fourth year.

There’s also the possibility of becoming the #1 pick in 2013, an honour which will almost certainly go to Andrew Luck next year. I suspect Landry Jones will declare as a redshirt junior having already had success with Oklahoma in two bowl games. It’s a very different situation for Barkley, but he’s worth reviewing nonetheless.

The snap judgement you make is that he’s a pure pocket passer, but actually he’s deceptively agile. We see at the 4:02 mark that he’s more than capable of making plays with his feet when the situation arises and the second touchdown pass at 5:37 is Aaron Rodgers-esque, a pump fake before slipping away from pressure, then hitting his target on the numbers. The plays at 6:48 and 6:58 are two more examples of what Barkley is capable of in this area.

On other occasions you’re left a little bit frustrated that he doesn’t extent the play. The sack and fumble after 35 seconds showed the perfect opportunity to step into the pocket yet he remains glued to the spot almost waiting to be hit. In that instance you want to see some appreciation for the pressure and adjustment, whether it’s a quick throw or at least trying to get out of the pocket to create a passing lane. We saw improvements in his footwork as a sophomore and it’s fair to expect that to continue as a junior. If he can become consistently good in this area you’re talking about a big-time pro-prospect because the other qualities he has are borderline elite.

Barkley excels with the quick pass and accuracy. Mechanically there’s no issues with his throwing motion and he’s well versed taking the snap from under center, taking a five step drop and delivering the ball on the money. The throw at 1:02 is the kind of thing that people rave about Andrew Luck, an efficient drop back and throw on the target in a crowd for the first down. You see further evidence of this at 4:46 and you have to love the way he looks off the safety to make the completion.

He needs to put more velocity in the mid/deep range throws and unlike some prospects I think he’s got the frame and mechanics to improve in this area. The pass at 1:14 could’ve done with a little more zip, but you can’t fault the placement over two defenders and it should’ve been caught. It’s the same situation at 2:24, good placement but you’d like the ball to hit the target a little quicker. A bit of work in the weight room will do wonders and he can add muscle without seeing an adverse effect on his accuracy.

Even so, the deep ball isn’t something we’ll ever rave about with Barkley but as long as it’s accurate and not under-thrown I don’t have an issue. Andrew Luck doesn’t have a cannon arm, but he rarely under throws his receiver. Christian Ponder on the other hand will try and throw to a distance he isn’t capable of and lobs it up for grabs. The completion at 2:40 is more Luck than Ponder, because although the ball doesn’t zip through the air like a Ryan Mallett pass there’s only one player who has any chance of catching the ball – the receiver. Barkley executes the play-action well and places the ball perfectly.

The touchdown pass afterwards flashes the decision making qualities he has, initially acknowledging his first option wasn’t on, moving to a secondary option before returning to the initial read in a split second when the pass re-opened. It’s a good, accurate throw to the back of the end zone.

Barkley suffers a little bit with an issue Luck had as a redshirt freshman and also at the start of the 2010 season in that he forces passes. This is probably to be expected with young guys still learning their game. Luck made major strides during last season but for the occasional stop-start performance (including the first half of the Orange Bowl) and I suspect Barkley will enjoy the same kind of improvement here.

The fade pass at 5:04 is perfect and should’ve been caught – it’s the third of five bad drops on the tape following an inch perfect throw. You also have to be impressed with the way he visibly progresses through his reads. Again, you’re talking about easy comparisons to Luck in that area.

Whenever I’ve watched Barkley I’ve been impressed and I maintain that he has #1 pick potential if he continues to improve as a junior and possibly during a fourth year with Southern Cal. Although he may not have the cannon arm, he’s pretty much the complete package in every other respect. Teams are going to want this guy to be the face of their franchise for the next +10 years. With USC off the national radar due to the sanctions, he’s unlikely to generate the same mass exposure that Luck enjoyed last season, but it’ll be fascinating to see how the pair perform and if they do both declare, how they’ll challenge each other at the top of the draft.

As things stand today I would project Andrew Luck to be a sure-fire #1 pick, but if he does declare Barkley would be the close second and who knows – he may end up having the better career.


  1. Nate Dogg

    I was a little disappointed with Barkley after watching that video. I find myself using his age more as an excuse than as a plus. It seems like his accuracy gets away from him at times, there were several poor or confusing throws in that tape.

    1:58 – Looks like just a poorly thrown ball in the dirt and wide of the receiver.
    4:32 – Missed throw.
    5:28 – No idea what he’s trying to do here.
    6:21 – Nice job avoiding pressure but underthrows it, receiver has to come back to the ball and play corner back.
    7:09 – Third and seven dump off to covered receiver. Not a bad throw, just a pet peeve more than anything. Argument could be made for playing it safe there with the lead.
    8:12 – Might be just trying to get rid of the ball here.
    8:21 – Not sure what happened here but zero chance for a completion with where he threw that ball. Chance for a touch down with better loft and touch.

    Considering the situations most of those throws came in, red zone and late in a close game, I wonder if he was just pressing. That would certainly be something you expect to improve with experience. The high expectations seem justified, the touch down at 5:37 is jaw dropping, but it looks to me like he still has a ton of work to put in.

  2. FWBrodie

    Man, I hate looking at Roger Goodell’s stupid face.

  3. Ben

    Mark Sanchez-esque?

  4. Kip Earlywine

    Keep in mind this was not a good game for Barkley, and games like this are a good example of why its a bad idea to judge a guy based on one game. He posted a 5.9 YPA, 57.1 completion %, and 124.5 rating against Virginia compared to a season-wide average of 7.4 YPA, 62.3 completion %, and 141.2 rating.

    Virginia was a quality opponent with a good defense, and Barkley didn’t have his best stuff. Honesty about the only nice thing I can say about this performance was that he avoided throwing a pick, but that was mostly due to a high number of short passes.

    When looking at QBs though, I try not to look at stats or even a performance, and focus more on the tools he has, and what that means he could be. Looking at Barkley, I find his 6’2″ 220 lbs. listing to be a little hard to believe. He looks more like 6’1.5″ 215 to me (could be wrong, just an estimate), which is pretty close I guess, but when was the last time a QB under 6’2″ went top 10? Mark Sanchez is the closest- he was 6’2 1/8″ and though I liked Sanchez a lot, even I’d say he was over-drafted in the top 5- he was more of a mid-1st prospect.

    I think Barkley’s going to be more of a mid-1st type guy, because unlike Sanchez, Barkley will be entering a loaded QB class in 2012 should he opt to declare. Based on size he’s not a 1st rounder, but the arm motion and release are prototypical, and he’s already checking multiple reads which is very promising for a true sophomore. Not a rocket arm, but pretty much on par with Luck’s… good enough.

  5. Hawksfan33

    The problem I have with Matt Barkley isn’t so much his ability on the field as a prospect, but rather his ability to lead his team. He just doesn’t seem like the natural leader that I want with a first round pick and franchise QB. I still remember Barkley smiling and joking around with a teammate after the huskies had just beat them on a last second field goal. Not my type of QB.

  6. Michael

    Barkley looks good not great. The d put pressure on him and he didnt have hasselbeck tendency s but everything over 15 yards seemed floated or fluttered. Looked like a wet ball but I didnt see rain. Lots of recievers dropped passes that hit both hands. But again he didnt get flustered. I would say he needs to work or zip vs. touch pass and where to lead a reciever. But high potential.

  7. amattson

    Rob, you did such a great job getting all of us fans ready for the draft and I thank you for all your efforts. This year I have a special request for you. This year with the lockout, it seems like free agency will be like the nfl draft 2.0. The day the lockout ends, teams will be on the phones and then running to the podiums with their cards. My request is, could you do a segment on 2011 free agency for the seahawks?
    For example, a position by position analysis of what our needs are and who would fit that need (and if we could afford them).
    We have a major need at LG and I think Robert Gallery fits that perfectly. We can afford him and I think he’ll be a hawk the day the lockout ends.
    We have a need at cornerback and James Joseph would fill that need, but can we afford him?
    Rumor has it that Vincent Jackson could very possibly be a hawk, but can we afford him and would he be more of a luxury pick? Do we have bigger needs and would it be better to spend our money elsewhere?

    We have a need at DT and should we resign Mebane or is there a better fit out there?
    It seems like Reece FB Oakland would be the final piece to us having a solid running game. Could we afford him and would he be as good a fit as it appears he would be?

    I think we fans now are as excited about free agency as we were for the draft and I thought this would be the perfect site to discuss it.

    If anyone else has some knowledge of who would be the best fits, please respond. I look forward to these discussions and hopefully the lockout ends soon! Go Hawks!

  8. James

    Rob & Kip, thanks for the best Seahawks site on the web! Although Barkley has things to work on in his game, in my view he is a superior prospect to any of the QB’s this year: Newton/Locker/Gabbert/Ponder, et al. Really outstanding set up and picture perfect release, with very good accuracy. John and Pete have to get the future QB right, or we will be on the outside looking in for the next ten years. It matters a great deal what players you draft if you already have a franchise QB, for you can add the last pieces to make you a champion; but it doesn’t matter who you draft if you don’t have a franchise QB, or it doesn’t matter until you obtain one. Since John and Pete have to hit a home run, it seems likely they will just go with Whitehurst or Hasselbeck next year and then obtain Andrew Luck, Landry Jones or Matt Barkley next year, even if it means trading up to get one of them. You pay whatever it takes to obtain a franchise QB. The question is do they rate Kevin Kolb as high as Luck, Jones or Barkely?

  9. plyka

    i’ve always thought that Barkley would be the superior QB over Luck at the pro level. I stand by that. luck is very good, but i always see something very special when i look at Barkley.

    • O


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