USC quarterback Matt Barkley is getting used to idea that he's a role… (Bret Hartman / For The Times )
After watching from the stands as former teammates auditioned for NFL scouts the day before, USC quarterback Matt Barkley was asked Thursday whether he could envision himself going through a pro day workout on campus next year.
"I might be out there in the same position I was [Wednesday]," the junior said. "But I could be out there on the field."
Much of Barkley's draft stock, be it in 2012 or 2013, will be determined by his efficiency.
Last season, he passed for 26 touchdowns with 12 interceptions, an improvement over his freshman season, when he passed for 15 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. But the strong-armed Barkley had stretches where he forced passes that resulted in turnovers.
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Barkley, who had a pass intercepted on the last play of Thursday's workout, said he was "light-years ahead" of where he was previously, adding that he felt as if he was "in the zone."
"[I'm] just comfortable in holding back and not trying to force it and rip every single ball," he said. "It's come along and feels a lot more natural to me now."
This spring, Barkley is operating behind an offensive line that is mostly inexperienced and depleted by injuries. Coach Lane Kiffin said that the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Barkley was doing well but that he still sometimes forces passes.
"The guy wants to have a great year, and spring is really when you can master your game," Kiffin said. "It's hard when you don't have a lot of guys out there with you to do that. I know he's frustrated, but he can't let that affect his decision-making."
Two years ago, Barkley was an early-enrollment freshman competing with Aaron Corp and Mitch Mustain to replace Mark Sanchez. He looked up to older players such as safety Taylor Mays, receiver Damian Williams and fullback Stanley Havili.
Now he's the role model.
"It's crazy to think I'm an upperclassman now," Barkley said. "It's a new perspective and challenge."
Receivers Robert Woods (hamstring) and De'Von Flournoy (hip) returned to practice. … Kiffin met with NFL scouts and coaches, but he did not observe the pro day workouts. "We've got a lot of work to do," he said. "You've seen our roster out here, so I don't really have two hours to stand on a field." … Kiffin, asked whether he would contact junior receiver Brice Butler, who left the program after last season but said there was a slim chance he would return to the Trojans: "We want guys that want to be here. If he wants to be here, then we'll talk to him at that time. I think it's a pretty neat deal to be on a $75,000 scholarship a year playing football at 'SC. I would think most people would want that."