“I came in here as a young buck…but times have changed a little bit,” said Matt Barkley, swarmed by members of the media, March 6th after his first day of spring practice. He spoke highly of their first day saying, “We had great tempo, great energy, we can’t let that die.”
Since his decision to return for his senior season and attend to some “unfinished business,” Barkley, fresh from a PAC-12, and school record breaking season of 3528 yards, 39 TDs and 7 INTs, called himself “almost a coach on the field,” and has continued to mature and develop into an offensive, and team leader.
USC will be ranked, presumably, in the top 5 of the AP preseason poll, Barkley will be a Heisman favorite, and USC will be a favorite to win the national title. But the motto for this year has changed from “No Distractions” to “Prep not Hype,” a phrase that the players will be able to fall back on as they face a year with a high amount of pressure, scrutiny, and expectations.
“We have to have the same mentality as last year,” said Barkley, “we can’t look at [this season] unlike any other year, our preparations can’t change because of higher expectations.” A message echoed by head coach Lane Kiffin who said, “We’re not going to, all of the sudden, prepare any different, or coach our players any different, or get ready for our opponents any different. We’re going to do the same thing we always do.”
After two years of postseason ban, with two more years of sanctions on scholarships, USC is in a rare position in college football; a team sanctioned and withheld from competing fully with the powers of the country, yet still on the forefront of college football—an ability that few programs could possess.
Ending the 2011 season with a 10-2 record, a 3OT loss to the consensus favorite for the NFL Draft’s first overall pick, Stanford Cardinal’s Andrew Luck, and an impressive 38-35 win in Eugene against recent rival Oregon, USC finished the season ranked #5 in the AP Poll and was amazingly motivated for a team with a bowl ban. But now that the Trojans are “out of jail,” according to Coach Kiffin, they are free to attain their postseason aspirations.
The third year head coach said after practice, “Thinking back to two years ago and being on the same field, I think we’ve come a long ways. As you look around at our players, the way they look and how they run … I think that our guys look really good.”
The Trojans are in good hands with their “coach on the field,” Matt Barkley, and Coach Kiffin, and with mottos like “Prep not Hype” and “Unfinished Business,” USC, with the personnel and staff they have assembled, brings the program that much closer to reaching a 12th national title.
“I think a lot needs to get done every day…maybe more than normal, because we have something to prove,” Barkley said. “I think we have to have the same mentality that we did last year of wanting to prove something.”