At first, there were four.
Now, there are two.
Left tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry will leave school a year early and make themselves eligible for the 2012 NFL draft, it was revealed this week. That leaves two Trojans from the upstart 2011 team still contemplating early departures from college. Let's get in to where they stand at this point, one month to the day before the last day players can remove themselves from the draft class.
Matt Barkley, Quarterback, Junior.
Barkley was great this year, putting up better numbers than almost anybody expected and leading the Trojans to a top-five finish when many projected them as national non-factors. Then there's his draft stock, which he boosted significantly over the season as well. Most had him pegged as a mid-to-late first-rounder entering the year; now, he stands as essentially a top-15 pick and probably a top-five selection when it's all said and done.
NFL teams will love his work ethic and coachability. They'll love his leadership skills and his media savvy. They'll like his improving arm strength and some will like his accuracy. Mobility is a big question mark -- as in, does he have enough to avoid David Carr-like sack totals his first couple of years in the league?
There are reasons for him to stay in school, such as chasing a national championship and a Heisman Trophy. But those appear outweighed by the reasons for him to get to the league as soon as possible.
We'll see which side he picks soon enough.
T.J. McDonald, Safety, Junior.
At the end of USC's 2011 season, McDonald was thought of as the least likely of the four eligible Trojans to declare for the draft. And that still stands between him and Barkley, but there does appear to be a spot for McDonald if he chooses to leave.
That spot would be right behind Alabama's Mark Barron as the No. 2 safety in the draft, giving him an outside shot at first-round selection but more likely a slot among the first 50 picks. The question is, does he think he can improve his stock enough in a year's time to make it worth returning to school and getting his degree?
It's hard to go in the first round as a safety. You have to be frequently dominant. You have to most often have superb measurables. McDonald may indeed have the latter, but the former's at least not yet true for the 20-year-old.
It's likely he'll stay in school and pursue the NFL next offseason, not this one.