Matt Barkley to announce plans

LOS ANGELES -- USC quarterback Matt Barkley will hold a news conference Thursday afternoon at Heritage Hall to announce whether he will stay for his senior year or leave school early for the NFL draft.

Barkley vaulted himself into the Heisman Trophy race and USC into the top five of The Associated Press Top 25 toward the end of this season as he threw for 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. He came on strong after Oct. 1, completing 207 of 297 passes for 2,409 yards and 29 touchdowns, with only four interceptions, and he rushed for two scores. During that eight-game stretch to finish the season, USC was 7-1 and averaged 39.8 points per game.

Barkley is the last of four players on USC's 10-2 team to decide his future. Defensive end Nick Perry and offensive tackle Matt Kalil announced last week that they would enter the NFL draft, while safety T.J. McDonald announced Wednesday that he would be returning to school.

Those looking for a clue to Barkey's decision, based on the location of the announcement, will be hard-pressed to find one. Heritage Hall is where Matt Leinart announced he would return for a fifth year after he had already won back-to-back AP national championships and a Heisman Trophy, and it is also the same building Mark Sanchez announced he would leave school early after only starting 16 games at quarterback for USC.

Before making his decision, Barkley said he would speak to Leinart and Sanchez as well as Carson Palmer, Andrew Luck and others who had to make a similar decision before their senior years.

"I think finishing out on a good note here at USC was something I wanted to do, and now that we've done that, there's a chance for my future to be financially secure, to move on," Barkley said earlier this month. "There's a couple reasons, but it almost seems like the reasons to stay might outweigh those, with all the guys coming back. Both sides, I look at it and it almost seems too good to be true."

Leinart weighed in Thursday on what he thinks Barkley will do.

"In my opinion, I think he stays!!" he tweeted. "You heard it first here."

Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.