March 17, 2009

Barkley learning more each day

There's little doubt when USC fans storm the sidelines of Howard Jones Field for USC's first spring practices later this month, they'll have their eyes focused on the newest addition to the football team.

Instead of getting sized for a cap and gown or a prom tuxedo, Matt Barkley will find himself smack in the middle of one of the nation's most followed position battles, vying for a chance to be the starting quarterback at USC.

When offseason workouts had just begun, Barkley said he still wasn't feeling totally comfortable with his new team. Now on the verge of full-fledged practices, Barkley said things are beginning to feel more normal.

"I've learned so much more of the offense and the terminology," Barkley said. "I've got more knowledge already. It's pretty much that and just getting used to the guys and how different they all are. I mean no one runs the same route the same way."

The time working with the receivers has been so incredibly valuable, Barkley said. Even while battling an illness, the young quarterback knows this time on the practice field will pay dividends when he gets meaningful reps this spring.

And, he's smart enough to know not to compliment just one of his potential receivers.

"Damian Williams knows the whole offense, and that helps. I think all the receivers have things a quarterback can love," he said. "(Ronald Johnson) has all that speed in the vertical game and how he can get down field. Travon Patterson's great. All three tight ends, Brandon Carswell, Brice Butler, David Ausberry - I love them all."

In fact, having nearly the entire offense returning from last season has made Barkley's adjustment much simpler.

"It's easier being around this offense," he said. "The whole entire line is back. All the running backs are still here. We have all the receivers except for (Patrick Turner). It's great having an experienced group of guys coming back that are willing to help me."

And, Barkley's got a young, hungry quarterback coach eager to tutor as well. Jeremy Bates, USC's new offensive playcaller, has begun working with the USC quarterbacks during the Trojans' conditioning workouts this past month.

Instead of seeing Barkley drop back with his fingers on the laces, Bates has had to settle for seeing Barkley drop back with an orange cone in his right hand.

"It's pretty much all footwork stuff and working on the mental game. I know he can't wait until we get a ball out here, but it is still good work no matter what," Barkley said. "Even though we're without a ball right now, it's still great to be with Coach Bates working on my feet and progressions.

"We're visualizing the play. We visualize the defense, who will be open and what the check down will be. Luckily, my imagination is pretty good."

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