Pac-12 coaches weigh in on Barkley for Heisman

As USC quarterback Matt Barkley's Heisman Trophy campaign heats up this week with the Trojans days away from concluding their 2011 regular season, it's interesting to see where he stands with a number of college football figures who don't have a vote but have plenty of opinions.

USC coach Lane Kiffin has already said he'd vote for Barkley to win the Heisman.

And a number of Pac-12 coaches said Tuesday on the conference's weekly conference call they would vote for him as at least a finalist. All who answered said he at least deserved consideration for the award.

Colorado coach Jon Embree, Oregon State coach Mike Riley, Arizona interim coach Tim Kish and California coach Jeff Tedford gave him glowing endorsements. Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson, Washington State coach Paul Wulff, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel and Stanford coach David Shaw said he undoubtedly deserved to be in the conversation.

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian and Oregon coach Chip Kelly said they'd need to look into the other candidates more to properly comment but continued to speak highly of him. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham wasn't available for comment.

"I'm one of those guys that doesn't think the Heisman goes to the best player on the best team," Embree said Tuesday. "I think it goes to the best player. And he definitely needs to be in that conversation. He's put that team on his back and has taken them to a very good year. What he has done and how he has matured through this season and career says a lot about the kid.

"He's one of those guys that has always been overshadowed. He doesn't go away."

The idea that Barkley has been overshadowed is certainly not a common one, but it makes some sense when considering the school's NCAA sanctions. It jibes with what Kiffin has said this week about Barkley being unfairly overlooked because of the sanctions.

But those who did glowingly support Barkley had other reasons for doing so -- like the obvious progress he has made since the start of this season and since his previous years as the USC starting quarterback.

"I thought he was probably the most improved quarterback we've seen all year from a year ago," Kish said. "I definitely think he would be considered."

Many -- like Tedford, Erickson and Riley -- said they primarily credited Barkley with the Trojans' overall improvement this season and 9-2 record. That seems to be the biggest reason he's picking up so much support, as is often the case with darkhorse Heisman candidates.

"I've been really impressed with USC's growth during the year," Riley said. "I get to see them quite a bit when we're watching film and I think Matt's had a terrific year.

"I've just been watching him play against the Ducks, and I think the poise he had in that game, the plays that he made, and I look at his overall production, I don't see why he wouldn't be considered."

So, would they vote for him to go to New York as a finalist in their top 3-5? Pressed, most said yes, including Neuheisel.

But Kelly said he didn't want to have to vote. And Sarkisian, who made news by coming out in dramatic support of Barkley before the Huskies' game against USC earlier this month, said he couldn't made the decision just yet.

"That's hard," Sarkisian said. "I probably would. But that's hard to do without studying everybody in the country."