USC has it all wrong. They've been celebrating the wrong Matt. Their No. 1 Matt, their best player, isn't QB Matt Barkley but left tackle Matt Kalil.
The big news regarding the Trojans' next season isn't Barkley's announcement just before Christmas that he's coming back but Kalil's Dec. 15 decision, with much less fanfare, that he's not coming back. Instead he's making himself available for the NFL draft. Good for SC that Barkley will be back at QB, but not good that Kalil won't be around to protect his blind side. Of course, linemen don't get the applause offensive skill players get, so Kalil didn't get many headlines. That's a shame since left tackles this dominant don't come along very often.
Why did Barkley look so good so consistently? Why was he able to break the school record, passing for 39 TDs? Why was WR Robert Woods able to crack the Pac 12 pass-catching record with 111? Yes, Barkley did some fancy passing but phenomenal protection played a huge part in his success. SC led the country in sacks allowed with eight. The boulder of this stone wall of an offensive line was Kalil who, incredibly, didn't allow a sack. Barkley never had to worry about his blind side. Without this level of protection, Barkley and Woods wouldn't have been running wild. This line rivals some of the legendary units of coach John McKay's teams back in the day.
If you want to see how left tackle should be played at the collegiate level, look up Kalil's highlights on YouTube and you'll see him flattening a parade of opponents. The NFL sees him as the next surest thing after THE sure thing, Stanford QB Andrew Luck, the certain No. 1 draft pick.. Look for Kalil to be drafted second, by the Vikings, to protect young QB Christian Ponder's blind side for many years. Now 6-foot-7, 295 pounds, Kalil will bulk up to 320-330.
Some members of that great SC line will be returning next season, but there's no one of Kalil's caliber. It's not clear who'll replace him but whoever it is won't be as good. Without impenetrable protection, Barkley will be vulnerable to sacks and will probably throw more picks than the seven he threw this year. A less efficient Barkley will likely translate into losses..
National title for USC next season? Without Kalil, Mr. Blind Side, no way.