SANTA ANA, Calif. -- It only seems like everyone is perfect here at Mater Dei High School. Girls walk across campus carrying lacrosse sticks. A soccer game is being played on an immaculate pitch. The baseball team is practicing on a groomed field, part of an athletic complex that would make some colleges jealous.
To call them all blond-haired and blue-eyed wouldn’t be fair or accurate. This is Orange County. The best, brightest and the diverse pay $7,000 a year in tuition to attend this Catholic institution. There’s a lot of brilliance, achievement, participation, even fame. One hallway is painted with the names of former Mater Dei sports greats. The average couch potato couldn’t help but recognize several of them.
|Matt Barkley will follow in the footsteps of former Mater Dei quarterback Matt Leinart. (Getty Images)|
"Hopefully, maybe," Matt Barkley says when asked if he will be No. 3. "I don't know."
In that respect Barkley is your typical mush-mouthed teenager. In every other, the Mater Dei junior is the soon-to-be next great USC quarterback.
"I feel like I could go in there and play right now," the 17-year-old said.
Welcome to the opposite universe of Terrelle Pryor. The Pennsylvania super-recruit who strung out his college decision until last week is not a bad kid, just different than the clear-thinking Barkley. Mater Dei's quarterback committed to USC in late January, during his junior year, 20 months prior to possibly stepping on the Coliseum floor for the first time.
Why not? He's a SoCal guy who is in love with Southern Cal.
"He told me, 'I really don't want to go through a (recruiting) process when I know in my heart and in my mind where I want to go,' " Matt's father Les said.
Not that his future coach necessarily agrees with early commitments. When Pete Carroll offered a scholarship, Barkley said the USC coach told him, “don't rush this at all."
Getting junior commitments is a growing trend. Schools like Texas typically are finished with recruiting by late December. By that time, the Longhorns are working on the next recruiting season's class (juniors).
That has led to annual carping about an earlier signing date. But coaches can't seem to come to an agreement on when or if there should even be an early date.
"Let's just go through the process," Carroll said. "I think guys are in a hurry to get it over with. Coaches are. I just don't relate to that. It doesn't make any sense to me at all.