NCAA Football Pac 12 FootballUSC Trojans

Lane Kiffin Plays Blame Game For Falling Draft Stock Of Matt Barkley

Kyle Terada – USA TODAY Sports

When Matt Barkley decided to return to the USC Trojans for his senior year, he walked away from being a top-five pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and rolled the dice for a chance at a BCS National Championship (part of the “unfinished business” Barkley talked about). After a disastrous 2012 season filled with injury and losing streaks, however, Barkley may not even get taken in the first round. Don’t worry, Lane Kiffin knows just who to blame (spoiler: it’s not actually the people responsible).

According to Kiffin, it is his defense’s fault for the poor perception of Barkley. He points to a 56-48 overtime loss to Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal in 2011 as the beginning of the negative turn against his quarterback.

“If Matt Barkley had the defense that Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer had, Matt Barkley would have won the Heisman Trophy just like they did. He would have had the winning records they had.

“Andrew [Luck] threw an interception for a touchdown and, their very next drive we stop them, and [safety] T.J. McDonald gets called for a head-to-head personal foul that keeps the drive alive. Is that Matt Barkley’s fault? If that flag’s not thrown and we stop them right there, you go, ‘Man, Matt just beat Andrew Luck.’ When I remember Matt, I think of all that stuff.”

Kiffin also lays blame at the feet of the NCAA sanctions for restricting USC’s ability to bring in bodies, particularly along the offensive line, during Barkley’s tenure. In short, it’s everybody’s fault, according to the USC coach, except for maybe the two people actually at fault; Kiffin and Barkley.

The Trojans fell apart down the stretch and struggled to adjust to much of anything that happened to them during games and that falls on Kiffin. When Stanford punched USC in the mouth and knocked Barkley around early in their game last season, Kiffin continued to do the same things and got punched in the mouth again and again. All season long, the play-calling lacked variety, as Barkley himself criticized when he pointed out how the offense was forced through certain players, particularly sophomore receiver  Marqise Lee.

Perhaps that trait is hereditary as Monte Kiffin, Lane’s father and former defensive coordinator, stepped down after the season following criticism of his defense being slow to adjust to the multiple looks they faced in the Pac 12. I’m sure the elder Kiffin appreciates being thrown under the bus as his son tries to save face for himself and his quarterback, but Monte wasn’t the root of the issues of the offense.

Despite being surrounded by arguably the most talented skill players in the country, Barkley just didn’t play as well this season. He threw 15 interceptions (up from seven in 2011) and completed 63.6 percent of his passes (down from 69.1 percent the year before) and the offense in general slowed down in Barkley’s senior season.

His stock was further damaged when he injured his shoulder in the second-to-last game of the season and missed the season finale against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the bowl game against the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets, the Senior Bowl and was not healed enough to even throw at the NFL Combine.

While there are plenty of qualifiers to place on USC’s struggles and fingers to point to place blame for Barkley’s tumbling draft stock, at the end of the day, there are only two people responsible for the former Trojans’ signal caller’s current predicament: Matt Barkley for failing to play up to his ability and Lane Kiffin for putting him in positions to fail time and again.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for Kiffin to admit to it.

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