USC Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley told a Heritage Hall packed with people exactly what they wanted to hear on Thursday – he's going to return for his senior year next season.
“I am staying so I can finish what I started,” Barkley said emphatically.
Despite the fact that Barkley was rumored to potentially go as high as the No. 4 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the much-hyped USC quarterback acknowledged that prospect of a competing for a national title was just too alluring to pass up.
This year, the Trojans finished 10-2 -- with wins in seven of their last eight -- and No. 5 in the Associated Press poll, but unfortunately couldn’t qualify for a bowl game because of suspensions levied against the school for its Reggie Bush-era transgressions. Nevertheless, Barkley threw for an impressive 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns this year, all the while tossing only seven picks.
USC left tackle Matt Kalil declared for the 2012 NFL Draft last week, but the decision clearly did little to sway Barkley’s desire to stick around.
“That’s not an easy decision,” head coach Lane Kiffin said after the announcement. “Not many people would do what Matt has done.”
On top of being a serious threat to challenge for a championship with USC next year, Barkley is also undoubtedly an odds-on favorite to claim the Heisman Trophy. Of course, on Thursday, it was all about the team and the Heisman -- and draft stock -- talk was mostly reserved for another day.
"That wasn't really an issue," he said of his draft stock. "It didn't play a huge role."
The focus now shifts onto the one thing that has evaded Barkley since his first took over as starting quarterback at USC – a BCS championship game.
“I think looking at the team that we have there is that chance [of playing in a BCS game],” Barkley said. “We’re on the rise and like I said in my statements, I feel like there is unfinished business.”