Tennessee will need to distinguish itself to lure the 6-foot-3, 228-pound Barkley away from the Golden State as he already has offers from California, UCLA, Stanford and USC as well as Nebraska, Florida State and UT. Needless to say others will follow, but they could be too late because Barkley has indicated he might make his commitment this fall.
Such an abbreviated recruiting schedule would seem to strongly favor the USC Trojans, who already have two major commitments from the Class of 2009. Riding high in preseason polls and omnipresent in the collective consciousness of high school players growing up in the new millennium, S.C. is also the most desired launching pad for QB prospects with professional potential and ambitions. In fact former Trojan signal caller Matt Leinart is a graduate of Barkley's Mater Dei High School.
The first freshman starter at quarterback in Mater Dei High history, Barkley connected on 126-of-220 pass attempts for 1,685 yards and 10 touchdowns as a 14 year-old rookie. Last season he threw for 1,349 yards and 11 TDs to earn first-team all-state honors and finish second in the California's Sophomore MVP race. Despite those impressive accomplishments, Barkley wasn't satisfied with his play in 2005 and 2006.
"My consistency can get a little better," he told S.C. Playbook.com's Garry Paskwietz. "I've been kind of all over the place for the last couple of years. I'm going to work on my accuracy and not getting flustered. I just want to throw the ball."
Over the last year Barkley has filled out his frame and refined his game. Of his spring game performance Paskwietz opines:
"Of course, it all starts with Matt Barkley, at 6-3, 228 right now and he just looked so polished tonight. He led his offense to scoring drives on their first three possessions and even added a two-point conversion of his own as he carried the ball on an option play. He had one deep throw late in the scrimmage which was as pretty of a deep ball as you will find and I continue to be impressed with his play action fakes. It's obvious that Matt is the leader of this team and Coach Bruce Rollinson even mentioned that Matt's leadership efforts in workouts is reminding him of former top MD quarterbacks such as Matt Leinart."
With all USC has to offer, a starting job is something less than a dead solid certainty. Obviously, Tennessee couldn't make any such guarantee either, but the competition, at least in terms of numbers, would be less. There's also the chance to compete in the top football conference in America before bigger crowds than the Trojans draw for regular season contests. Then there's the chance to work with David Cutcliffe who earned his rep tutoring the NFL's best quarterback — Peyton Manning. Of course, the key is to get Barkley to take a visit to one of the Volunteers' showcase contests. And the key to getting him to agree might be a standout effort against Cal next weekend.
Coincidentally, the first day any written scholarship offer can be extended to a high school junior is Sept. 1 — the same day the Vols kickoff their season on the left coast.