LOS ANGELES — Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley has decided to return for his senior season and put off the NFL for another year.With USC coach Lane Kiffin and his family in attendance, Barkley announced Thursday that while he feels prepared for the NFL, he has unfinished business with the Trojans. His announcement set off cheers from the roughly 200 people who attended his news conference at USC's Heritage Hall.
"I am staying so I can finish what I started," Barkley said.
Barkley is coming off a spectacular season in which he led the Trojans to a 10-2 finish and the No. 5 ranking in the country. Because of NCAA sanctions, USC was not allowed to play in the postseason.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound quarterback has been projected as a first-round pick in the NFL draft, in the top 10 overall on some boards.
Barkley was the latest in a heralded lineup of USC quarterbacks that's included Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez.
Barkley had an uneven first season with the Trojans, making some questionable decisions that led to 14 interceptions. Still, he threw for over 2,700 yards and 15 touchdowns to become the only freshman semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's best quarterback.
Barkley developed into a mature leader by his sophomore season, again throwing for over 2,700 yards, with 26 TDs, a completion rate of 62 percent and 12 interceptions. He also handled questions about USC's sanctions with poise, never shying away from talking about the program's difficulties.
As a junior, he developed into one of the country's best quarterbacks, throwing for 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns with only seven interceptions on a team that one of the best in the country the last half of the season. The Trojans won seven of their final eight games to climb the polls, though had to endure second straight bowl-less season thanks to sanctions that end next season.
USC left tackle Matt Kalil declared for the NFL draft last week, but on Wednesday safety T.J. McDonald said he was returning for his senior year. Now with Barkley, the Trojans are loaded and likely one of the front-runners to win next year's national title.
Barkley also will enter next season as the leading contender for the Heisman Trophy much the way Stanford's Andrew Luck did when he made a similar decision after the 2010 season and can firm up his place as one of the best quarterbacks in the history of a program filled with great ones.