INDIANAPOLIS -- It would be a tough act for anyone to follow. When you're in the wake of a quarterback class that featured three instant superstars in Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson, as well as many more possible long-term starters, it's an outlier group that defies a sequel. For Geno Smith and Matt Barkley, the top two quarterbacks in the 2013 draft class, the hope is that they can avoid it looking like the move from "Caddyshack" to "Caddyshack II," and shake the perception that this class is a sequel that isn't worth watching. They had their chances to answer those questions in Friday's scouting combine media session, and some were more confident than others.
West Virginia's Smith, the consensus number-one prospect in this class, talked about just how high the bar has been set.
"Those guys changed expectations for many quarterbacks, let alone rookies. Those guys stepped right in, including Russell, and were leaders most of all from day one. And that's the one thing I took from it. No matter what age difference, where you come from, or what pick you are -- when you're taken for that role as a quarterback in the NFL, you have to lead by example. That's the thing all those guys did.
"They set the bar very high. I want to be one of those guys that step in and do the same thing.''
Some would say that he's ready to do so. Others would look at a second-half swing the wrong way in the 2012 season and wonder if Smith is ready for prime time. The Mountaineers lost six of their last eight games after starting off 5-0, and while Smith's slump wasn't as bad as some assume, he's still going to be hammered about it.
"We came into a new league. We came out real hot, we were fired up and ready to really prove ourselves. Inconsistency set in. I'm not going to say that anyone wasn't working hard. When we went through that tough stretch, I was the first one to stand up in front of the team and let them know -- we're going to work even harder and we're not going to put our heads down. The one thing I take from that experience is that being a leader, you're not going to deal with fair situations at all times.
"The main thing I learned was that to stop whatever goes on, in my position as the leader of the team, I've got to set the bar and lead by example. That's what I did for my team."
Nobody questions Matt Barkley's leadership, but the USC quarterback who threw 75 touchdowns and just 22 interceptions total in his last two seasons with the Trojans will have other inquiries to deal with. A shoulder injury will keep Barkley from throwing at the scouting combine, though he said on Friday that he's "100 percent" on schedule to do everything at USC's Pro Day on March 27. For now, eschewing all of the drills in Indianapolis means that Barkley can only impress teams in interviews with his overall game knowledge and character.
I’ve had a great time in the informal meetings so far," Barkley said on Friday. "Once those formal interviews kick off, I definitely believe that’s a strength of mine in terms of being on the board and watching film. I’m a master of my offense. I think I can portray that to them. If they can put a face to my name, once they meet me, I feel like they’ll have a good impression."
Barkley may bea "master of his offense," but some wonder if he has the kind of arm that can make deep throws in tight windows with the kind of velocity the NFL will require. If he bristles at that question with NFL teams as he did when he was asked about it during his media session, those NFL teams will at least know that Barkley has a competitive streak.
I would disagree," Barkley said. "Look at the tape. Watch the tape. I’m not going to go through certain throws, but you can watch the tape where I’ve made throws in tight windows. I can make every NFL throw that you need. So I would disagree."
Some scouts and general managers might disagree with Barkley's perception of his arm (as would I), but good for him for keeping his dander up. In the end, the challenge for Smith and Barkley -- and every other quarterback in this class -- will be to follow an impossible group into the NFL and prove their worth. As Barkley said, that's all this class can do -- comparisons or not.
"There’s been a lot of comparisons recently to last year’s rookie class, and well-deserved," he said. "Those guys came right away and played and made their mark; won playoff games. There’s always going to be that comparison, whether it’s just or unjust. I don’t feel like there’s any pressure on my part to live up to them. I know every situation’s different. Whatever a player’s going into is going to be different than what they went into last year. I don’t feel there’s any need to live up to what they lived up to.
"I have my standards, and hopefully those are high enough."
Standards are high. Whether the actual talent is enough to make that kind of mark is something we won't know for a while.