Everyone witnessed the train wreck that was the USC Trojans football team in 2012. For the very first time in college football history, a team ranked No. 1-overall to open the year wound up with six losses. There were injuries, yes, but more importantly there were embarrassing, game-long lapses on the defensive side of the football. There were also several questionable ethical calls made on the part of coach Lane Kiffin (having players switch jerseys at halftime, for example).
Unfortunately, and while we did watch this program flame out spectacularly a season ago, no one knows exactly what was going wrong except for those who were in the locker room. For the most part, those involved have kept things relatively quiet. Yes, a story made the rounds about a locker room fight following a Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech, but as far as deep, underlying issues go, those have remained under wraps.
Until now. Former quarterback Matt Barkley, going through interviews before the 2013 NFL Draft, gave Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports an peek inside his own mind as the debacle of the 2012 season unfolded.
What we see is a leader full of regret for his own lack of action, as well as a young man disappointed in his coaching staff. He explained that putting his faith in his coaching staff was not exactly the best idea.
“I learned how to handle adversity last season, and maybe I could have done a few things differently. I could’ve had a bigger voice, given more input and taken it to the next level — pretty much as the owner of the company might . . . not just letting things happen. You put faith in your coaches, but when you see trends, things not happening the right way, and when the team rests on your shoulders, it’s almost like you have to step up. You can’t just let these things go by and watch them disintegrate in front of you. You’ve got to put the glue in somewhere. Looking back, I wish I’d been more forceful.”
While Barkley did not delve into specific team issues, he did talk about his own failed experience with Kiffin. Barkley has obviously formed a real passing connection with Robert Woods, but Kiffin forced Barkley to look the way of sophomore sensation Marqise Lee.
“Kiff kind of suited the play-calling toward Marqise,” Barkley said. “It was rough at times, because defenses kinda knew what was coming. It was sort of predictive. Robert Woods is a great player. . . . You want to be respectful of your coaches, because they are your elders, but when it falls on your shoulders, you probably should get involved.”
Considering how poorly the season went, Barkley probably should have gotten involved.
The fact that he is admitting his own faults in terms of his inability to lead what became a sinking ship could wind up giving an NFL team confidence that he has now learned from his mistakes. Such a situation may get Barkley drafted higher that the second round, where he is currently expected to be taken.
Or, conversely, the fact that he is admitting this could very well be a red flag to NFL teams.
At the very least, it should definitely be yet another red flag against Lane Kiffin.