The Trojans held their annual NFL Pro Day on Wednesday with plenty of buzz surrounding the workout of quarterback Matt Barkley.
Not only is Barkley a high-profile prospect at the most high-profile position, but pro day marked the first time Barkley had an opportunity to throw for scouts since injuring his shoulder in late November. Since the end of the season Barkley has been spending his time in the South getting treatment on the shoulder and working with former FSU quarterback Chris Weinke at the IMG Academy in Florida.
Before he could get to his throwing work, Barkley ran the 40-yard dash (a hand-timed mark of 4.87) and the shuttle drill, although he slipped in one shuttle rep and came up flexing his right hand. By the time his throwing session started, the hand was fine and all eyes were focused on him.
Barkley threw to a group of five primary players; wide receivers Robert Woods, Brandon Carswell and Travon Patterson, tight end Dominique Byrd and running back Curtis McNeal. It took about three or four throws to realize the shoulder strength was not an issue. There was zip on his passes and he was moving well on a variety of throws. There will always be nitpicking as part of the scouting process for little things that might not have gone as well, but for the most part it was a successful session, with Barkley hitting on 46 of 50 throws.
“It was a great day just to come out and throw the ball around,” Barkley said. “It’s good to be back on SC’s campus for something like this. The shoulder felt fine. The ball slipped on a couple but no worries about that. I’m not worried about anything.”
It remains to be seen if Barkley will get picked in the first round or slip to the second, but based on what he did today it would be a surprise to see him fall out of the first round.
“Matt was impressive,” Weinke said. “He showed every throw that he’s going to be asked to make in the National Football League. The one thing he does really well is he’s got a great understanding of the game and he can change ball speed and trajectory. He can manage all the throws inside the numbers as well as outside the numbers. Short intermediate and long throws, he showed it all today. He’s as well prepared for the NFL as any quarterback I remember coming out.”
Another Trojan who could make his way to the first round is Woods. Most speculation in recent months had Woods pegged in the second round, but he had a solid combine and followed that up today with some impressive field work while catching balls from Barkley. Woods had a one-handed grab along the sidelines that was an eye-opener and he also showcased his smooth routes and fluid movement.
Woods chose not to run the 40 after putting up a 4.51 at the combine. There had been talk that Woods would look to get into the 4.4 range, especially with such a good group of speedy receivers available in the draft, but Woods said the feedback he got was that his speed was not an issue.
“A lot of the teams said they had me hand-timed at a 4.4 at the combine so they were fine with that,” Woods said. “Today was about doing well with me and Matt as a unit. I thought we did what we’ve been doing for the last three years.”
One former USC receiver said any teams who have questions about Woods need only to look at the game tape to understand how good he is going to be at the next level.
“Robert is a pro’s pro,” said Curtis Conway, who spent 12 years in the NFL. “He’s got three years of college production on tape that shows what kind of player he is. He’s made for the next level and the team that drafts him is going to be very happy.”
Khaled Holmes was also looking to showcase his health status as he was forced to miss the Senior Bowl and then had to withdraw from the combine due to injury. Holmes came out right away and ran a very respectable 5.13 hand-timed 40-yard dash and took part in all the drills except the bench press -- the drill he was doing at the combine when he suffered the pec injury.
Holmes was part of the lineman group that was the first to wrap up their portion of the pro day workout, but he stayed to snap the ball to Barkley during the quarterback throwing drills. Holmes has been blocking for Barkley since Matt was a 14-year-old freshman at Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, so today was possibly the final time they will work out together as teammates.
“I just had to get out here and show the coaching staffs how I move,” Holmes said. “I felt smooth and I felt I moved well.”
Nickell Robey had one primary goal at the pro day and that was to improve upon his 40 time. Robey had posted a time in the 4.5 range at the combine but he came out today and ran hand-timed marks that ranged from 4.37 to 4.43. Any way you slice that, it’s a step in the right direction for Robey because he continued to show the athleticism and explosive ability that should see him as a fourth- or fifth-round selection as a slot corner and special teams performer.
“I wanted to redeem myself in the 40 and I think I did that,” Robey said. “That’s what I needed the most. The scouts told me they were pretty impressed with everything I did at the combine but they just wished I had a better 40, so that’s what I came out and did today.”
31 of the 32 NFL teams were represented, as the Washington Redskins were the only team not in attendance.