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Column: Te’o, Smith, Barkley go pro a year late
Question of the Day
Unfortunately, the season still had eight games to go.
There was another side to the mountain, and it was all downhill.
Smith still put up some dazzling numbers _ 4,205 yards passing, 42 touchdowns, just six interceptions _ but West Virginia dropped six of its last eight, including a blowout loss to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl. Suddenly, everyone was finding flaws in Smith’s game. His confidence was shaky. He setup and delivery were faulty. He was too emotional, too loose with the ball.
Heck, some pointed out that he didn’t play well in poor weather _ which comes off as the ultimate bit of nitpicking.
Even so, Smith still expected to go somewhere in the first round, maybe even among the top 10 picks. That’s why he turned up at Radio City Music Hall in New York with all the other projected first-rounders. For most of them, their dreams came true. All Smith could do was look on glumly as one player after another went ahead of him _ even a teammate he helped look so good, receiver Tavon Austin, selected at No. 8 by the St. Louis Rams.
Te’o stayed away from New York, allowing him to sort out whatever anger or humiliation he was feeling in private. That was the right call, showing he does have the ability to make good decisions beyond the online dating world.
On Friday _ finally! _ both Te’o and Smith heard their names. Back to back, no less. The Notre Dame star went to San Diego in the second round with the 38th overall pick; Smith was selected next by the New York Jets.
Barkley was still waiting. Amazingly, he wasn’t picked in the first three rounds _ passed over through a total of 97 selections. The last four rounds will be held Saturday.
The guess here is that Te’o will turn out to be a good, solid pro, while Smith has a shot at greatness. Certainly, no other rookies will have a bigger chip on their shoulders.
When asked to analyze Te’o, former NFL coach-turned-TV analyst Jon Gruden said, “He’s got a real good football aptitude. He plays faster, I think, than people give him credit. I think he’s a very good, instinctive, high-effort, well-coached inside linebacker that’s got to prove he can play on every down. There is no question about that. But I’m really confident that he can do it.”
Then there’s Barkley, who was being mentioned in the same breath with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III before last year’s draft.
Barkley, for some reason, returned to Southern Cal for one more year. Maybe he was counting on less competition at the quarterback position in the 2013 draft (and, indeed, only one QB was taken Thursday). Maybe he truly wanted to take another shot at a national championship with a team that was pegged as the preseason No. 1.
Whatever the case, Barkley couldn’t have been more wrong in his decision, at least from a financial point of view. The Trojans didn’t come close to living up to the hype, barely finishing with more wins than losses (7-6). He threw twice as many interceptions and wound up spraining his shoulder in a late-season game, which raised more doubts in the eyes of the scouts.
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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