Barkley, Forcier no ordinary freshmen QBs

NEW YORK (AP) - Hard to call freshmen standouts Matt Barkley and Tate Forcier precocious.

A couple of cool, California teenagers leading two of college football's most prestigious programs, Michigan's Forcier and USC's Barkley are part of a generation of polished passers who are arriving on campus better prepared than ever to play.

Between private tutors, passing camps, more advanced high-school offenses (and defenses) and early college enrollment, Barkley, Forcier and other elite quarterback prospects are practically being engineered for the position.

Make no mistake, while there are plenty of well-schooled quarterbacks being pumped into college football these days, what Barkley and Forcier have done is exceptional. It's just that after two straight sophomore Heisman Trophy winners, Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford, the idea of a freshman quarterback hauling off the big bronze statue one day doesn't seem so farfetched anymore.

The 19-year-old, blonde-haired Barkley has led No. 3 Southern California to a 2-0 start, including an 18-15 victory at Ohio State on Saturday in which he directed a brilliant game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter.

The recruiting experts pegged him as the top quarterback in his high school class and he has the look of a future high NFL draft pick: 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, strong and accurate arm - a great match for the Trojans' prostyle offense.

Forcier, also 19, has lifted spirits at Michigan following a miserable 2008 season. He engineered his own memorable comeback victory Saturday, throwing a touchdown pass with 11 seconds left to beat Notre Dame 38-34, and has the 25th-ranked Wolverines (2-0) looking like Big Ten contenders again.

Forcier was a blue-chip recruit coming out of high school, too, but is different model than Barkley. Undersized (6-1, 188) but multidimensional, his quickness and speed make him a perfect fit for the Wolverines' spread offense.

Their physical differences aside, both play with confidence that belies their youth.

"He was in it, talking, communicating," USC coach Pete Carroll said of Barkley's performance in hostile territory. "I've said that a number of times, but a lot of times kids don't communicate real well. He was fine. He's just like he always was, and is."

Forcier plays with a smile on his face and doesn't get down when he makes mistakes.

"His make up is suited perfectly for that position," Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said.

Talent helps, but both have been raised to be exactly where they are.

Barkley went to Mater Dei High School, in Santa Ana, Calif., the powerhouse football school that produced USC Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart. He also studied under Steve Clarkson, one of the first and most famous personal quarterback tutors in the country.

Clarkson, a three-year starting quarterback at San Jose State in the early 1980s, has worked with Leinart, Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen.

Forcier is from San Diego and playing quarterback is a family tradition - one older brother was a backup for Michigan, the other for UCLA.

He has been training with Marv Marinovich, father of former USC quarterback Todd Marinovich, since before he reached his teens. Home-schooled, he played at Scripps Ranch High School, running a spread offense. As Barkley did at USC, Forcier enrolled in college early and arrived at Michigan in time for spring practice.

Like most young talented quarterback prospects, Barkley and Forcier have spent their youths constantly honing their skills.

"These guys are playing quarterback year-round, they're clearly further along then they were in my day," UCLA coach and former quarterback Rick Neuheisel said.

Still, it's rare for teams to rely on freshmen quarterbacks. Only four other teams have given freshmen QBs significant playing times this season, and that counts Boston College's Dave Shinskie, a 25-year-old former minor league baseball player.

That number could go up this week, with Neuheisel considering playing freshman Richard Brehaut to replace an injured starter.

"To play a freshman quarterback, if you're going to have a good team or a chance to be successful, you're going to have to have a lot of good players around him," said former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, who started Peyton Manning, Casey Clausen and Erik Ainge as freshmen and had winning seasons with all of them. "He can't be expected to carry the load. His job is to not lose the ball game."

So far so good for Barkley and Forcier, but that's not quite enough for Forcier. He wants to shoot down college football's conventional wisdom about freshmen QBs, the line that says the newbie is bound to screw up in a big spot and cost his team a game.

"I've been hearing that from everybody," he said. "That's motivation to push me and has made me want to prove everybody else wrong."


AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Ann Arbor, Mich., contributed to this report.


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