Pete Carroll drew some criticism as USC's head coach in 2009, when he publicly chastised Trojan quarterback Mark Sanchez for deciding to forgo his senior season in Los Angeles and turn pro a year early.
Though Lane Kiffin has maintained many, many aspects of Carroll's program after taking over the Trojans, it seems those kinds of opinions on his quarterbacks' futures aren't going to be one of them. Bryan Fischer of our sister blog Eye on Recruiting (and our USC spring practice primer ) was on hand for Kiffin's post-practice comments yesterday, which included this on the future of junior quarterback Matt Barkley (emphasis added):
“Matt’s going into his third year here. Obviously, if he has a good year, I’m sure he’ll look to go to the NFL. Most guys do after their junior year.The very lack of competition for the Trojan QB job that Kiffin describes would be reason to think he'd all but beg Barkley to return. But Kiffin has always made his and his program's ability to put players into the NFL a cornerstone of his recruiting pitch; clearly he's not going to send the message to potential future quarterbacks that he won't make every effort he can to get them into the pros as quickly as possible.
“He needs to take the next step, to go from being a really good quarterback to a great quarterback. Obviously he’s not competing against the guys on this field, because he’s above that level. But he’s competing against the best guys in the country every single day.”
But is Barkley really on track to make that kind of leap? Assuming he makes the same kind of progress in 2011 he made in 2010, he likely is; he improved his touchdown-to-interception ratio from 15-to-14 to 26-to-12, taking his QB rating from approximately 131 to 141 in the process. Another 10-to-15-point increase would put Barkley amongst the national top 20 in QB rating and one of a very few quarterbacks in that range playing in a pass-centric, pro-style system like Kiffin's. If an occasionally-erratic, spread-trained quarterback like Blaine Gabbert could go as high as No. 1 in this year's draft, it seems likely that a prospect like Barkley could find his way into the first round after a solid junior season ... if not all the way into the top 10.
So Kiffin's not exaggerating. But to see a head coach expect -- and almost hope , it seems -- that his best player will skip town a year early is just one more sign that Kiffin is marching to an entirely unique drummer amongst college coaches.