LOS ANGELES-Quarterback Matt Barkley had some pep in his step as he performed in front of NFL scouts and a horde of media members at USC Pro Day. Barkley was the big fish in the pond that many of the scouts came to see. To the naked eye, Barkley didn’t disappoint, throwing fastball heaters as well as exhibiting distinct touch when he needed to.
The intrigue surrounding Barkley has been so great that 31 of the NFL’s 32 teams showed up. Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie left his perch in the Bay Area to attend and watch Barkley and other Trojans players do their thing on the field.
The Silver and Black are in the middle of overhauling their roster, so evaluating the likes of free safety T.J. McDonald as well as watching Barkley, give the McKenzie and the Raiders some options on draft day.
Coming into this day, questions abounded about Barkley’s wounded shoulder. Barkley, who injured his shoulder in a game against UCLA, moved around and zipped throws with no signs of any type of lingering shoulder issues. His strong performance looked as if it negated the doubts.
“It was a great day to come out and throw the ball around,” Barkley said after his session had ended. “ It feels good to be back. It was a good day. You always try to be perfect, especially on a day like this. I’m pleased with the way how guys came out and ran routes and how the ball came out.”
Running back Curtis McNeal, who ran a fast 4.5 clocking in the 40-yard dash during the Trojans workout for scouts, said Barkley was on point with his throwing.
“Matt looked great,” McNeal said. “He was throwing around with fire, a little zip. He was showing that he’s ready. He was showing them that the shoulder is not bothering him at all.”
When asked by a reporter if he had something to prove by coming out and throwing, Barkley, who has been bounced around by analysts as a potential first round draftee to a later round pickup, said that wasn’t his focus.
“I don’t know,” Barkley said. “That’s not my job. I do what I do and if its proof enough for someone else, then so be it. I don’t think that was my goal today.”
Barkley was not the only USC player looking to upgrade their draft status. The Trojans had other potential draftees trying to woo scouts with their own workout performance.
Former Serra High alum wide receiver Robert Woods Jr. looked impressive as he darted up and down the field catching just about everything Barkley threw to him, including a sensational over-the-shoulder grab on a deep fade pattern. McNeal, who didn’t receive an invite to attend the NFL Combine, came out with some early jitters, but thought he performed well enough to garner some looks from teams.
“It felt pretty good. It was one of the biggest things of my life so far. I just wanted to hit it head on and attack it,” McNeal said. “I was nervous a little bit. You want to do your best. This is a dream, when it comes to dreams. I was a little nervous but once I got going I just had fun like I normally do. I worked hard every day. I didn’t get invited to the (NFL) combine, so I had a little time and attacked it every day.”
McDonald came out to prove to teams that he could do all the drills that was set up. He didn’t participate in the 40-yard dash because of a fast time he ran at the NFL Combine. McDonald felt he exceeded expectations.
“I felt smooth,” McDonald said. “I felt real smooth in everything that I did. I didn’t do the 40 (yard dash). I did the broad jump. I did a good broad jump. What I’ve been doing the whole time since the combine is doing these field drills and stuff like that.
“I ran a 4.5 at the combine…I needed to focus on this. This is the biggest thing. I probably could have come out here and ran again, but I needed to focus on this. That’s teams wanted to see me do. They wanted to see run all these position drills and go through the dills.”
Though he performed at the level expected on him, McDonald said the whole pre-draft process has been a bit arduous.
“I didn’t know it would be like this,” McDonald said. “I knew it was going to be kind of tough, but I didn’t know it would be this tough. At the end of the day you got to ball. You have go up and do it.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. A news and sports reporter, Dennis has written about social justice, civil rights, education, politics, and crime. He also covers the NFL, NBA, MLB as well as other sports. Based in Southern California, Dennis earned a journalism degree with a minor in criminal justice from Howard University. The real HU!!