USC QB Matt Barkley responds to critics, says 'I'm a football junkie'

Last week, an anonymous scout and an NFL executive spoke in not-so-glowing terms about USC quarterback Matt Barkley, who announced he wouldn't be throwing at the combine while recovering from a shoulder injury he suffered 14 weeks ago.

"Here we go again," the scout told Yahoo.com's Jason Cole. "Another LA movie star quarterback who needs his own day to throw."

"And you wonder why guys from Southern California [are bad]?" the exec added.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King spoke with Barkley during the combine, and the likely first-round pick took the opportunity to respond to his nameless, faceless critics.

"As I start my NFL career,'' he told King, "I really want to set the record straight on a few things. People look at me like I'm some Cali boy, but I'm not that way -- I don't even know how to surf. I'm a football junkie. I'm football, 24/7.''

For Barkley, at least in the eyes of the skeptics who spoke to Cole, it's more about guilt by association. Mark Sanchez and Matt Leinart, both former first-round picks out of USC, have had disappointing NFL careers.

"My story's so much different,'' Barkley said. "When the big sanctions came down, coach [Pete] Carroll is gone, we have no A.D., it's the spring of my freshman year, and I've got to stand up and speak for the program. We've got all these penalties, and I helped rally the troops. That actually helped me -- helped me become more of a leader. I think I bring a lot that's not quantifiable, starting with the fact that I've been a four-year starter.''

The doubters will remain, at least until March 27 when Barkley will throw at USC's pro day and "dispel those myths about my arm."

Between now and then, expect the pre-draft obfuscation to only intensify.

Take, for example, the scuttlebutt coming out of the combine that the Cardinals, who hold the No. 7 pick in April's draft, found Barkley "extremely impressive" during his interview with the team.

And maybe that's true. Or perhaps it's a case of the organization wanting to give the appearance of really liking Barkley in the hopes of duping a quarterback-needy team into trading up for the right to take him.

Yes, we know: The Cards qualify as a QB-needy team. But as PFT's Mike Florio points out, Arizona could be trying to mask interest in West Virginia's Geno Smith, who more fits the mold of a Bruce Arians quarterback.

Whatever the pronouncements in February, they're only preliminary. Like every other draft-eligible player, Barkley's fate will come down to whether he can play. All of this other stuff between now and then is just filler. 

In case you're wondering, NFLDraftScout.com ranks Barkley as the No. 2 quarterback, behind Smith (and the 18th prospect overall), and Rob Rang has him going to the Cardinals seventh overall.

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CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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