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2012 NFL Draft: Matt Barkley To Announce Decision Thursday

USC Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley will announce his decision on whether or not to return to school for his senior season in an afternoon press conference on Thursday, the school announced today. The press conference will be held at 1 p.m. PST at Heritage Hall.

Barkley is projected to be a top 10 pick in the 2012 NFL draft after setting a school record with 39 touchdown passes and threw for 3,528 yards in 2011. Barkley led the Trojans to a 10-win season, including a 38-35 road win in Eugene, Oregon against the Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks, and a 50-0 drubbing of rival UCLA.

The deadline to declare for the NFL draft is January 15. Barkley's will be the fourth such press conference at USC in the last seven years. Matt Barkley decided to return for his season in 2005, but Reggie Bush (in 2006) and Mark Sanchez (in 2009) decided to turn pro. All three of the previous conferences were held at or near the January 15 deadline.

Fellow USC juniors, left tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry, have already declared for the NFL draft, while safety T.J. McDonald has decided to return for his senior season.

The allure for Barkley to return would be to helm a team likely to be ranked in the preseason top five. After two seasons without postseason play, USC is bowl eligible in 2012, something Barkley hasn't enjoyed since winning the Emerald Bowl in December 2009. In addition, Barkley is within reach of virtually every career passing record at USC should he decide to return.

We will find out Barkley's decision at 1 p.m. Thursday.

To discuss Barkley and USC football, go to Conquest Chronicles.