Here's a good article about him from CBS Sports:
Now in shadows of greats, USC recruit could soon loom over all
Dennis Dodd March 25, 2008
SANTA ANA, Calif. -- It only seems like everyone is perfect here at Mater Dei High School. Girls walk across campus carrying lacrosse sticks. A soccer game is being played on an immaculate pitch. The baseball team is practicing on a groomed field, part of an athletic complex that would make some colleges jealous.
To call them all blond-haired and blue-eyed wouldn’t be fair or accurate. This is Orange County. The best, brightest and the diverse pay $7,000 a year in tuition to attend this Catholic institution. There’s a lot of brilliance, achievement, participation, even fame. One hallway is painted with the names of former Mater Dei sports greats. The average couch potato couldn’t help but recognize several of them.
It's with all this accomplishment that you have to want to be here. Almost half of the 2,300 students are involved in some activity. The result -- at least athletically -- is memorialized in the lobby of the basketball gym. Walk in and you're immediately hit by not one, but two glassed-in jerseys of former Heisman Trophy winners.
"Hopefully, maybe," Matt Barkley says when asked if he will be No. 3. "I don't know."
In that respect Barkley is your typical mush-mouthed teenager. In every other, the Mater Dei junior is the soon-to-be next great USC quarterback.
"I feel like I could go in there and play right now," the 17-year-old said.
Welcome to the opposite universe of Terrelle Pryor. The Pennsylvania super-recruit who strung out his college decision until last week is not a bad kid, just different than the clear-thinking Barkley. Mater Dei's quarterback committed to USC in late January, during his junior year, 20 months prior to possibly stepping on the Coliseum floor for the first time.
Why not? He's a SoCal guy who is in love with Southern Cal.
"He told me, 'I really don't want to go through a (recruiting) process when I know in my heart and in my mind where I want to go,' " Matt's father Les said.
Not that his future coach necessarily agrees with early commitments. When Pete Carroll offered a scholarship, Barkley said the USC coach told him, “don't rush this at all."
Getting junior commitments is a growing trend. Schools like Texas typically are finished with recruiting by late December. By that time, the Longhorns are working on the next recruiting season's class (juniors).
That has led to annual carping about an earlier signing date. But coaches can't seem to come to an agreement on when or if there should even be an early date.
"Let's just go through the process," Carroll said. "I think guys are in a hurry to get it over with. Coaches are. I just don't relate to that. It doesn't make any sense to me at all.
"It's the landscape right now, so we have to go with it. The horror is what if it turns out like basketball? Kids are recruited in the ninth grade. Guys are getting pinpointed coming out of junior high."
Of course, Carroll isn't going to say no to talents like Barkley if they want to commit early. In fact, Carroll didn't sign a quarterback in February's class for the first time in six years. Even then, Brandon Hance transferred in from Purdue in 2002. Barkley has noticed, saying, “it does work out nicely.”
So what is USC getting? A kid who is following the legacy of Matt Leinart, the owner of one of these jerseys in the glass case. (The other Mater Dei Heisman winner is John Huarte, who won the statue at Notre Dame in 1964).
Leinart is one of nine college quarterbacks who have come out of coach Bruce Rollinson's program in his 19 seasons. Barkley was the first to start as a freshman, turning 15 the week of the 2005 season opener.
Three seasons later, Barkley is 6-foot-3, 225 pounds. The kid who grew up with a poster of John Elway in his room, looks (a little bit) and throws (a lot) like him.
Barkley's private quarterback coach, Steve Clarkson says, "His skills are off the charts."
You would expect most personal coaches to say that about their students, except that Clarkson is not easily impressed. At his Air 7 camp he has tutored everyone from Leinart to the Clausen brothers to Ben Roethlisberger to J.P. Losman.
The picture, as you will see, is almost too perfect to believe.
As a freshman, Barkley was allowed to call some rudimentary audibles. Confused by the defensive front, the quarterback once came to the line and barked out, "Wait a minute."
After getting the offense into the right play, Barkley handed off to the tailback who went 34 yards for a touchdown.
“That's when you know you have something that's going to go good,” Rollinson said.
Picture the Mater Dei practice field last spring populated with Carroll, Cal coach Jeff Tedford and offensive coordinators Jimbo Fisher (Florida State) and David Cutcliffe (formerly of Tennessee).
Fisher and Cutcliffe had to catch a flight but stayed long enough to see Barkley's first few throws."
"Matt's first two balls were pretty nice," Rollinson said. "His third ball is a comeback route to the wide side. That's a 20-yard throw across the field. He uncorks a rocket ship. Cutcliffe and Fisher said, 'Tell him he's got a full ride to Florida State or Tennessee.' "
It's all perfect in the O.C. Les Barkley is a financial consultant who used to play water polo at USC. Matt's twin freshman siblings are athletes themselves. Sam is a receiver on the varsity. Lainy is captain of the freshman volleyball team. Both parents are slim and athletic looking but when it is suggested that neither looks like they have the genes that were passed on to Matt, mom Beverly chides, "What, you don't think I'm big?"
Awkward moment over?
Well, not quite. Les Barkley's Lexus was hit last month in an accident as he drove to Mater Dei from the family's home in Newport Beach. It was for this interview. The car still is in the shop.
"Don't worry about it," Les said.
And so there is guilt after the interview but no suspense at the top of the class of 2009. The nation's No. 1-rated player in next year's recruiting class is a laidback teenager who lives 10 minutes from the ocean, 20 minutes from school and plays guitar at a non-denominational church of 6,000. Going to USC pretty much keeps it that way.
"We played some of the toughest teams in California, if not the nation," Matt says. "The knowledge they installed in me is the best thing I have going for me."
Three years ago Barkley became that first freshman quarterback starter at Mater Dei since Todd Marinovich in 1983. He was the first freshman starter for Rollinson, who has won five CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) titles since taking the job in 1989.
Barkley will be that 10th college quarterback produced by his coach, who has that Heisman winner (Leinart) and a Heisman finalist (Colt Brennan) to his credit.
At this point in his high school career, it shouldn't have to be said that Barkley is better.
"If you would have come to me five, six years ago and told me a freshman would start in our program, I would have said there's no way," the coach said.
"I'll coach for another 10 years, whatever. I don't think this will happen again."
Barkley didn't start playing football until the sixth grade, but won a youth league Super Bowl as a seventh grader. By that time he already was in Mater Dei's football camp and had caught the eye of Clarkson.
Last year Barkley was named Gatorade's National Player of the Year after passing for 3,560 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Matt obviously operates on a different plane on and off the field. As a freshman he was able to take honors biology and English. Between school, practice and games Beverly said her son went out once -– for two hours -– during that freshman season.
"He never went out to one movie," his mother said. "We said, 'You don't have to get A's. Just go to bed.' "
Of course, he did get A's. Barkley has a 3.9 GPA.
As part of Matt's service project, the Barkleys came up with Monarchs for Marines. Mater Dei players fundraised for the families of the 1st Marine Division from Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Calif. Marines and their families became Monarchs' fans.
"It's kind of scary thinking about them fighting a real battle," Matt said. "I'm not going to compare it to football in any sense but you can kind of relate to in the sense that Marines are the ultimate example of true brotherhood and unity."
In that sense, Barkley still is a rah-rah high schooler. The three stripes on Mater Dei jerseys stand for "pride, poise and courage." The Monarchs do a synchronized "Pride Drill" before and after every game.
Gradually, though, Barkley is entering Leinart's world. Autograph requests are mailed to the school from as far away as North Dakota and Missouri. Barkley is reminded that his signature could show up soon on EBay.
"I thought about that," he said. "Then they put in there, 'I promise I will not sell this …' "
Ah, youth. Leinart went through the same thing to the point now that Rollinson has to alert school security when the former quarterback wants to see a Monarchs basketball game. None of that is written in the tributes to the Heisman winners in that glassed-in case. Matt Barkley, though, is ready to welcome his new life while perfecting his current one. "It goes back far, even to John Huarte," he said. "It runs deep. I don't feel pressure, but to be part of it is an honor. I'm walking in their footsteps, guys who are in the pros now."