Barkley looks like next college star (cont.)
Following a recent practice, someone asked Barkley about pictures supposedly floating around the Internet of him "chatting up coeds."
"Coeds? ... You mean girls?" said Barkley. "No, I don't associate with them.
"I like to have fun, don't get me wrong, but I'm not going to be out doing anything crazy. You don't have to worry about that."
Entering fall camp, Barkley was the clear No. 2 behind Corp. But even before the third-year sophomore injured his leg, opening the door for Barkley, the freshman's summer film study had enabled him to close the gap. Teammates soon noticed his mature demeanor.
"He's never really been scared or intimidated," said Trojans safety Taylor Mays. "He just kind of gets the ball and does his thing. Coach Carroll has confidence in him, so why shouldn't we?"
This isn't the first time Barkley has displayed accelerated development. In 2005, he became the first freshman to start at quarterback for Mater Dei since Todd Marinovich in 1983. (His predecessors included Leinart and Colt Brennan.) In '07, he became the first junior to win Gatorade's National Player of the Year award.
To become the Trojans' starter, Barkley had to master an NFL-style offense that even Leinart struggled with his first two years as a Trojan.
"Every guy we've brought in here, we thought they had a chance [to play as a freshman], but they hit a wall," said Carroll. "We thought John David [Booty] could, but it just didn't happen. It took him a long time. Matt wasn't behind the curve -- he was ahead."
With a loaded supporting cast at his disposal, Barkley won't have to approach the wall, let alone hit it. With four returning starters on the offensive line, a deep stable of tailbacks (Joe McKnight, Stafon Johnson and C.J. Gable among them) and a veteran tight end (Anthony McCoy), fullback (Stanley Havili) and receivers (Damian Williams and David Ausberry), Barkley won't have to throw for 300 yards a game. Against San Jose State, USC leaned heavily on its running game (rushing for 342 yards), with many of Barkley's yards coming on quick bootlegs and catch-and-runs by his receivers.
Presumably, quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, the 32-year-old former Denver Broncos assistant and Jay Cutler mentor who replaces Steve Sarkisian as the Trojans' play-caller, will stick to a similar plan against the Buckeyes. If needed, however, Carroll insists Barkley can run nearly any part of USC's package.
"There aren't many throws he can't make," said Carroll. "As far as setting up and throwing it, he can do all of that. That's not even an issue.
"The biggest problem we have is our receivers getting out there, because the ball comes so quickly, sometimes they're not quite ready for the throws. He has a natural sense for getting rid of the football. He doesn't wait to see guys, he throws the ball when guys are just beginning to get in the open areas. That's a knack."
The one thing Carroll can't yet access is how the freshman will react when faced with 105,000 hostile fans at the Horseshoe on Saturday night. Barkley himself admitted: "I probably don't know what I'm in for. I'm not going to worry about that."
Carroll is not going to worry, either. Last week, he made a point of emphasizing he doesn't view his faith in Barkley as "a gamble."
"Under the circumstances, I see this as a good, solid decision," he said. However, should the freshman falter on the big stage Saturday and make a game-costing mistake (he threw three interceptions in USC's four preseason scrimmages), Carroll will hear no shortage of backlash from local critics.
Of course, the ever-rosy coach isn't thinking that way.
"Think how cool this is going to be if this kid can hold it together," said Carroll. "And he gives us every indication that he will be able to."
His new star shares that optimism. "I don't even know how crazy it will be, but that won't faze me," Barkley said. "This is fun. This is easy. This is what I was made to do."
Upon watching him play, you may think the same thing.
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