COMMENTARY | Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly spent years doing his homework on USC quarterback Matt Barkley, his team's fourth round draft pick. After competing head-to-head with Barkley the previous four seasons in the Pac 12, Kelly became very familiar with his new acquisition and developed a tremendous amount of respect for the Trojan quarterback.
"He was the best quarterback we faced," Kelly said of Barkley, who torched Oregon's defense for 323 yards and four touchdowns to derail Oregon's hopes of playing in a second straight BCS championship game. " He always seemed like he had the answer. Every time we came back and scored, he came back with an answer."
As Raanan points out, Kelly had also gone up against Andrew Luck at Stanford and current Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and former Arizona Wildcat Nick Foles.
The stats will tell a slightly different story of course. In the 2011 college football season Luck was the most accurate passer in the conference, completing 71.3 percent of his passes while tossing 37 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. Barkley was nearly as good as or better than Luck after completing 69.1 percent of his passes for 39 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. Barkley also had more passing yards than Luck and put together those numbers in one fewer game as a result of a postseason ban served by USC. Foles had numbers comparable to Luck and Barkley as well but he also was intercepted 14 times (with over 120 more passes than each).
Barkley arrived at USC at a somewhat unfortunate time, with the program just about to slide from the top of the Pac 12 and sanctions about to hit. His arrival was revered from the start but in terms of accomplishments it would be fair to say Barkley's hype was not quite met by on-field success. Barkley put up great numbers, finishing within the top three of major passing categories in the Pac 12 each of the past four seasons, but the 2012 season is seen as a disappointment given the preseason expectations.
Barkley was a decorated high school quarterback but his accolades were smaller in number since he started at USC. Last season he was honored with the Wuerffel Trophy and he was a second-team All-Pac 12 player in 2011. Still, Kelly had a great respect for his future quarterback in Philadelphia.
What is ironic about the admiration from Kelly is the fact that Oregon was 3-1 against Barkley's Trojans while he was at USC.
In 2009 it was Oregon who spoiled Barkley's national title hopes with a smashing 47-20 upset over the fourth ranked Trojans. Oregon held the freshman quarterback to just 21-of-38 for 187 passing yards. In 2010 No. 1 Oregon blew away Barkley and USC in Los Angeles, 53-32. Barkley again was ineffective, completing just 53.1 percent of his passes and being intercepted twice.
The 2011 game that sparked Kelly's noted quote in reference to Barkley was the first time Kelly and Oregon took a loss against Barkley, Luck or Foles. And last season Barkley once again put up big numbers against the Ducks, passing for 484 yards and five touchdowns with USC dropping 51 points on the Ducks. The only setback for Barkley was USC's defense, which was no match for Oregon in giving up 730 total yards in a 62-51 Oregon victory.
Through those four games Kelly had a chance to truly watch Barkley grow as a player and a leader.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sportswriter. Follow McGuire on Twitter.
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