Fully committed (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday February 5, 2008 2:31PM; Updated: Wednesday February 6, 2008 5:39PM
"He is on track to be the greatest quarterback I've every worked with," said Steve Clarkson, Barkley's private quarterback coach who has also tutored Leinart, Jimmy Clausen, Ben Roethlisberger and J.P. Loseman. "Mentally he's already at a collegiate level and now he's approaching a pro level. We're actually working on pro stuff because that's where his mindset it. He's now training at two levels above his peers."
That advanced knowledge of the game has caused Rollinson to change his philosophy and allow Barkley to call his own plays, something he has never allowed a player to do during two decades at Mater Dei. "He has carte blanche out there," Rollinson said. "I've never done that before but we've tested this race car and it has passed every test; we know what this car is capable of doing."
Barkley first showed signs of his football acumen and ability to lead midway through his freshman season when he properly called an audible at the line of scrimmage after he saw the defense shifting to the strong-side where the run was called. As Rollinson saw the 14-year-old, who beat out three juniors for the job, audible out of the play to the weak-side, resulting in a touchdown run, he knew he was watching the birth of a special player.
"Your normal quarterback would have stayed with the original play. A freshman quarterback wouldn't have even thought of anything else," said Rollinson. "He had called the right play and the defense shifted and he knew what he had to do."
While Barkley is soft spoken and doesn't like to talk about himself, he's a different person when he steps in front of the team or preaches in mass. In those moments, when all the personal accolades and questions are pushed aside, he transforms into a preacher that motivates his teammates and even his coaches.
"He fascinates me," said Rollinson. "There's a part of me that has no doubts that he's going to be a preacher one day. I close my eyes sometimes and think this could be the crystal cathedral with 2,000 people. There is a sense of calm about him and it's in every sense of his life. He does not get rattled."
The one knock against Barkley, however, is that he has yet to win a championship during his three years as the starter at Mater Dei. It's a fact he's reminded of every time he walks through the football office and past the 22 league championship plaques that line the walls.
"I've got to win a championship," said Barkley, while looking at team pictures of past CIF champions. "That's the one thing I lack. That's the one thing I need on my resume. I need to win."
With that Barkley excuses himself to go to the weight room where he's scheduled to lift before returning to the meeting room to watch more game film. This is hours after committing to USC and nearly eight months before Mater Dei's season opener.
"We have to kick Matt out of here sometimes," said Rollinson. "He's constantly trying to get better and learn new things. Sometimes I wonder if this guy is for real. Could he be this good? But he is. He's the real deal."
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