If any NFL general managers or coaches want to know what USC Lane Kiffin thinks of quarterback Matt Barkley, Kiffin is eager to offer a ringing endorsement.
Kiffin, who knows something about the NFL from his stint coaching the Raiders, told ESPNLosAngeles.com that he knows Barkley has all the tools needed to be a great NFL quarterback.
“I think he’s going to be a great starting quarterback in the NFL, and the film shows it,” Kiffin said. “The plays he makes, all the throws he’s made here, the leadership qualities.”
So why was USC such a disappointment in Barkley’s final season? Barkley’s NFL stock seemed to slip as USC fell from No. 1 in the preseason to unranked at the end of the season, but Kiffin says that’s the fault of USC’s defense.
“I’ve said this before: If Matt Barkley had the defense that Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer had, Matt Barkley would have won the Heisman Trophy just like they did. He would have had the winning records they had,” Kiffin said.
Kiffin openly slamming the USC defense may make things awkward at the next Kiffin family dinner, as USC’s defensive coordinator last season was Kiffin’s dad, Monte Kiffin. It also may have Cowboys fans concerned, considering that Kiffin is now the defensive coordinator in Dallas.
But Kiffin stands by that, saying that people need to remember how Barkley and USC almost beat Stanford and Andrew Luck in 2011.
“Andrew threw an interception for a touchdown and, their very next drive we stop them, and [safety] T.J. McDonald gets called for a head-to-head personal foul that keeps the drive alive,” Kiffin said. “Is that Matt Barkley’s fault? If that flag’s not thrown and we stop them right there, you go, ‘Man, Matt just beat Andrew Luck.’ When I remember Matt, I think of all that stuff.”
Barkley would love it if NFL scouts think of him as the guy who could have beaten Andrew Luck. Unfortunately, NFL teams are a lot more likely to look at what Barkley did last season than they are to listen to Lane Kiffin’s opinion.