By Robyn Norwood - USA Today
LOS ANGELES - Do NFL scouts put more weight on four years of Southern California game film or a much-hyped workout with no defense on the field?
Quarterback Matt Barkley kept his arm under wraps at the NFL scouting combine in February, saying his injured shoulder would be "perfect" for Southern California's pro day.
That day arrived Wednesday, and Barkley was solid but definitely imperfect, completing 56 of 62 passes in front of scouts from all 32 NFL teams. Of concern: Barkley's misses were mostly on long balls -- though two were drops -- and he benefited from some spectacular catches by USC teammate Robert Woods.
"I thought it was a good day," Barkley said. "You know, you always try to be perfect, especially on a day like this."
Norv Turner, the Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator and former NFL head coach, didn't quibble.
"I really like him. I liked him on tape. He's had a great career here. He's seen the adversity of playing the quarterback position. He's obviously got the physical skills," Turner said.
"I mean, I'm not a doctor, but watching him throw, there's nothing wrong with him."
Some of the concern among scouts isn't about the injury, but arm strength even when healthy. Barkley was sharp on short routes, but had some wobbles on deeper throws, overthrowing some and leaving receivers to wait for others.
"If you watch the tape, you'll see he's got a strong arm and he can throw the ball deep," Turner said. "I think he showed that in this workout."
Other NFL personnel on hand included Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and New York Jets quarterbacks coach David Lee.
Barkley's unofficial 40-yard dash times were reported as 5.02 and 4.93 seconds by the USC athletic department. (A stopwatch viewed by USA TODAY Sports timed him in 4.99 and 4.87.) But the focus was on his arm, on public display for scouts for the first time since he separated his throwing shoulder in a Nov. 17 loss to UCLA.
Still, the display came in a controlled environment, throwing to USC teammates in a scripted workout directed by Chris Weinke of IMG Academy, who has coached Barkley among other high-profile quarterbacks.
Barkley turned down the chance to be a high pick in the 2012 draft to return to USC and chase a national championship and the Heisman Trophy, but the drop-off between his junior and senior seasons makes him one of the wild-cards of the NFL draft in April, projected to go anywhere from the top 10 to out of the first round.
USC went from 10-2 his junior year to 7-6 his senior year and Barkley's passing-efficiency rating fell from 161.2 to 157.6. His completion percentage fell from 69.1 to 63.6, and his interceptions soared, from seven to 15.
Woods, a potential first-round pick, said Barkley's balls looked "great."
"The ones he did overthrow were just one step. That's just timing," he said, adding that Barkley's velocity, in his opinion, had improved on some passes since his rehabilitation.
Whether Barkley proved anything to NFL decision-makers remains to be seen.
"That's not my job. I do what I do, and if it's proof enough for someone else, then so be it," he said.