Barkley Will Bypass NFL Draft to Return to Southern California

University of Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley said he’ll return for his senior season rather than enter the National Football League draft.

Barkley, a 21-year-old junior, set a school record with 39 touchdown passes in leading the Trojans to a 10-2 mark this season. He threw for 3,528 yards, setting another USC record by completing 69 percent of his passes.

Barkley had been projected as a top-10 pick if he entered the 2012 NFL draft. By returning to school, he might be the No. 1 quarterback and possible top pick in 2013, draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said on ESPN after the player’s announcement.

“It is my dream to play quarterback in the NFL and I intend to make that dream a reality,” Barkley said today in a televised news conference on USC’s Los Angeles campus. “But I also know I came to the University of Southern California to compete and have a rare journey as a USC football player. I know in my heart that I have not yet finished my journey.”

Barkley has started the past three years at USC, which was ineligible to play in a bowl game this season because of National Collegiate Athletic Association violations. Barkley threw for 432 yards and six touchdowns in a season-ending 50-0 win over UCLA, which went on to play in the Pac-12 Conference title game because of USC’s ineligibility.

The Trojans will be eligible to play in a bowl game after next season.

“Our USC football team has been through some tough times and we have persevered,” Barkley said. “The 2012 team has some serious unfinished business to attend to, and I intend to play a part in it.”

Barkley is the third USC quarterback since 2005 to hold a news conference to announce a decision on whether he’d turn pro. In 2005, Matt Leinart decided to return to school for his senior year after a season in which he won the Heisman Trophy as college football’s best player, while Mark Sanchez entered the NFL draft in 2009 after one season as a starter for the Trojans and was chosen by the New York Jets.

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