Matt Barkley didn't dazzle, but he definitely earned a passing grade Wednesday at USC's Pro Day on the Trojans' campus.
Barkley, considered a sure first-round NFL Draft prospect after his junior season in 2011, saw his performance slide a bit in 2012, reflecting the overall play of the team.
After sitting out passing drills at the NFL combine while waiting for his injured shoulder to heal, Barkley was counting on a great performance at his Pro Day. He is hoping to catch West Virginia's Geno Smith, with whom he is battling for the top quarterback spot in some minds.
While he may have proved he is worth first-round consideration, Barkley was not as impressive in his workout as Smith was in his. Barkley is not nearly as athletic as is Smith, as evidenced by the disparity in their 40-yard-dash times. Smith ran in the low 4.5-second range, while Barkley's best Wednesday was reported to be 4.95 seconds.
More important, Smith seemed to put more spin on the ball, as his deep passes drove through the air better than those of Barkley. However, Barkley was consistently more accurate in games, and that may weigh heavier with coaches and scouts than what happened during an orchestrated Pro Day workout.
Barkley completed all but five of his 62 passes Wednesday, which reflected his play in 47 career starts at USC. Most of the passes were thrown into a slight breeze, and at least two passes could be considered drops.
At least one scout was reported to remark that Barkley looked bigger in person than he did in game films. Barkley was measured at 6 feet, 2 1/2 inches and 227 pounds at the Indianapolis Combine, but he was reported to be at least 10 pounds lighter Wednesday.
As expected, interest was high, as at least 60 NFL scouts, coaches and team executives were in attendance. That included strong representations from the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders and New York Jets, three teams that are hunting for a quarterback in the draft.
"Barkley had an outstanding career (at USC), making all the plays you needed to see to know that he can be successful at our level," Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner said after the workout. "He just confirmed today what anyone who had watched the tape already knew. He's a gifted young player who would be a tremendous addition to any organization."
Barkley threw to teammate Robert Woods, one of the top wide receiver prospects in the 2013 draft; running back Curtis McNeal, and two former USC players, tight end Dominique Byrd and wide receiver Travon Patterson.
"I was impressed by the number of passes (Barkley) threw today," St. Louis general manager Les Snead said. "Since he was injured to end his career, this was his recital. It was an overall very good day for him."
However, based on all remarks, Barkley's workout was less than spectacular. At least three of his deep passes wobbled against a slight breeze. By comparison, Stanford's Andrew Luck threw with authority into a stiff breeze at his Pro Day last year. Luck was the first player picked in the 2012 draft.
But Barkley performed well in quarterback guru Chris Weinke's scripted session, comparable to sessions in recent years by Jake Locker and Mark Sanchez, according to NFLDraftScout.com analyst Rob Rang.
Meanwhile, Woods was very impressive and may have bettered his stock among wide receivers. He reduced his 40-yard time by a tenth of a second to 4.47 seconds. During position drills, he showed great explosion out of his breaks and caught all but one of the passes thrown to him, including an impressive one-handed grab on a deep ball.
Also impressive was safety T.J. McDonald. He measured 6-3, 213, and grabbed every pass thrown in his direction. Backup safety Drew McAllister looked good, especially in position drills.
On the other hand, cornerback Nickell Robey dropped several potential interceptions in drills, but he soared 40.5 inches in the vertical jump, leaving scouts to make of it what they would.
Center Khaled Holmes had a strained pectoral at the combine and cited that again as the reason why he was unable to lift Wednesday.