By Zac Ellis
Matt Barkley's senior season at USC didn't exactly go as planned. And coach Lane Kiffin could be a big reason for that -- at least, according to Barkley.
In an interview with Yahoo! Sports' Michael Silver, Barkley reflected on his senior season in 2012, when the preseason No. 1 Trojans stumbled mightily in the shadow of high expectations and limped to a 7-6 record after a 6-1 start. But Barkley alluded to internal issues that might have soured the atmosphere within the program, saying he wishes he'd been more vocal as a leader in the locker room.
"Yeah, I've thought about it long and hard," Barkley said. "I learned how to handle adversity last season, and maybe I could have done a few things differently. I could've had a bigger voice, given more input and taken it to the next level — pretty much as the owner of the company might … not just letting things happen."
"You put faith in your coaches, but when you see trends, things not happening the right way, and when the team rests on your shoulders, it's almost like you have to step up. You can't just let these things go by and watch them disintegrate in front of you. You've got to put the glue in somewhere. Looking back, I wish I'd been more forceful."
Though Barkley never mentioned Kiffin by name, the implication of "trends, things not happening the right way" seems to point to a leadership problem. Barkley said the ups and downs of last season took a toll as the year progressed.
"It can, at times, seem daunting because of what people say," Barkley conceded. "It kind of becomes a snowball effect."
Barkley later questioned Kiffin's play-calling, which he says was too focused on Marqise Lee, who led the nation in catches and finished second in reception yards.
"Kiff kind of suited the play-calling toward Marqise," Barkley says. "It was rough at times, because defenses kinda knew what was coming. It was sort of predictive. Robert Woods is a great player. … You want to be respectful of your coaches, because they are your elders, but when it falls on your shoulders, you probably should get involved."
Luckily, Barkley feels that adversity could serve him well at the next level. He's slated as a second-round pick in this week's NFL draft.
"I feel like I've learned to handle any firestorm," he says. "It will definitely help me at the next level. When you're the face of a program, you have to manage more than just throwing a football. I'll be ready."