Monday, April 14, 2008

2009 Spotlight: Matt Barkley

When recruiting websites and media outlets sat down over the past few months to decide on how to rank the 2009 crop of football players, one name likely came up first: Matt Barkley. In fact, the conversation was likely very short. The Santa Ana, Calif. quarterback has separated himself as the clear No. 1 prospect in the nation.

Barkley is a 6'3" 225-pound monster behind the line of scrimmage. He is the complete package. Standing tall in the pocket, showing poise and maturity way beyond his teenage years, Barkley sprays the football all over the field. He has a great arm and can make every throw on the field. He has great footwork, balance, vision and can throw on the run. His mechanics are already developed ahead of schedule.

But it is not just about throwing the football, it is about how he throws it. He will stand confident and tall in the pocket while 280-pound defenders bear down on him and will calmly drop a 45-yard fade route right into his receivers waiting arms. His toughness and leadership will carry him a long way on a football field.

This poise is what sets him apart from most high school athletes. Of course, it comes with the territory. As a four-year starter for Mater Dei High School, young Barkley has grown very accustomed to the spotlight. Recent college greats Matt Leinart and Colt Brennan have both walked the halls and locker rooms of Mater Dei. The Southern California high school power is also one of only two high schools in America to boast two Heisman trophy winners (Leinart and John Huarte-Notre Dame). The other is Woodrow Wilson High in Texas (Davey O'Brien-TCU and Tim Brown-Notre Dame).

So pressure is certainly a part of the job description. Barkley relishes it.

The young signal caller was named the Gatorade National High School Player of the Year for 2007. He is the only junior to ever win the award. He also earned the 1st annual Joe Montana Quarterback of the Year award as well. He was the only junior nominated. He threw for an Orange County record 3,560 yards and 35 touchdowns while leading his team to a Southern California Pac-5 Division quarterfinal game in '07.

Sounds like a nice resume for a junior in high school. But wait there is more.

Barkley, a devout Christian, is the leader of a program named 'Monarchs for Marines' (M4M). The Mater Dei Monarchs dedicated the 2007 season to the troops stationed at Camp Pendleton. Hundreds of players, coaches and family members showed up at the base to help landscape and renovate the grounds. M4M has raised roughly $100,000 for fallen and wounded soldiers.

So who gets this young prodigy? Shockingly, Pete Carroll and the USC Trojans already have a verbal commitment from the quarterback. If there was any doubt, Les Barkley - Matt's father - was an All-American water polo player for USC in the 70's.

Talent. Genetics. Intelligence. Maturity. Focus. Humility. Mr. Barkley has it all, except the thing he craves the most. A CIF state championship. It was that loss in the quarterfinals that drives the quarterback. He works every week with future teammates - wide receiver Morrell Pressley - and quarterback gurus - Steve Clarkson - in order to be constantly improving. Needless to say, a state championship is his goal for 2008. Hell, its the only thing the kid doesn't have!

This does not bode well for guys named Mitch Mustain and Aaron Corp.

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