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Breaking down Matt Barkley vs Arizona State (2011)

In preparation for the upcoming college football season, I’ve been breaking down games from some of the top draft-eligible prospects for the 2013 draft class. First up were two games of Logan Thomas, and now we’ve moved on to Matt Barkley. In the first game I charted for Barkley against Stanford he looked like a potential 1st-round pick, but also demonstrated some flaws which could cause for a fall once scouts spend more time dissecting his game. I was tipped off by a twitter follower that his game vs Arizona State further exposed some issues, so that’s where we’ll go next.


Barkley has the talent, but is far from a finished product

As always, you can download the full chart of Barkley’s performance right here.

Downfield Accuracy
In the Stanford game, I was most disappointed by Barkley’s inaccuracy down the field. He completed just 3 of 12 passes beyond 15 yards and only two of the incompletions were accurate throws.

Unfortunately, Barkley’s performance against Arizona State wasn’t much better. He completed just 4 of 12 passes beyond 15 yards and only two incompletions were on the mark, one of which was still arguably a poor decision as it was tipped and could have been intercepted.

A downfield accuracy rate of 50 percent isn’t terrible, especially considering two of the incompletions were 40-yard bombs which have a low success rate, but it does raise some concerns. Many of Barkley’s throws weren’t just off the mark, they were wild and completely uncatchable. Forcing a receiver to adjust is one thing, but giving him no chance at all is far more concerning.

For a good example of the errant throws Barkley is capable of unleashing, take a look at these two throws which just so happen to come on consecutive dropbacks (a few run plays occurred in between).

Decision Making
Another issue which gets raised in this game is Barkley’s decision-making ability. He throws two interceptions in this game, both of which left me scratching my head.

Here’s the first interception, an attempted quick slant which gets picked off by Vontaze Burfict.

I’m really not sure what to say about this play. Clearly Barkley is reacting to the linebacker coming from his blind side, but Barkley still has more than enough time to set his feet and fire a quick strike to Robert Woods cutting across the middle. Instead, he leaps off his back foot and attempts some sort of fadeaway throw which lands in the arms of Burfict. I would much rather see Barkley and take a sack on this play rather than attempt to force the ball using poor mechanics.

The second interception occurs mostly out of desperation, with USC trailing late in the game. Once again Arizona State brings pressure and this time actually gets to Barkley. As he’s being wrapped up, he attempts to float the ball to a receiver in the flat.

Once again, this is simply an inexcusable decision. USC is down two touchdowns with just over six minutes remaining, a difficult but not insurmountable deficit. But by throwing this interception, which gets returned for a touchdown, Barkley seals the Trojans fate.

On a positive note, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Barkley’s mobility. USC seems to use designed rollouts three to five times per game, and Barkley excels on these plays. He isn’t a threat to take off running, but he’s more than capable of moving outside the pocket and throwing on the run. His modest arm strength limits his range while on the move, but he has shown the ability to maintain his accuracy on the run on short and intermediate routes.

Next up I’ll take a look at Barkley’s performance against Notre Dame. Look for that sometime late this week or over the weekend.

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