The first domino has fallen.
USC redshirt junior linebacker Jordan Campbell has become the first player to defect from the land of Troy and take advantage of an NCAA-regulated free-transfer policy for juniors and seniors, telling ESPNLosAngeles.com Monday he has already told USC he will transfer.
Contacted Monday evening, a school spokesperson could not confirm that USC had received notification of his decision.
But Campbell's decision to leave the Trojans is especially interesting because of the circumstances surrounding his time at USC. A high school All-American out of Norco High who struggled to find playing time at USC during his three-year career, Campbell ended spring practice not officially on USC's roster due to a violation of Kiffin's newly instituted 'zero-tolerance' policy.
Instead of being forced to sit out a season and thus forfeit his penultimate year of eligibility -- as would have happened if he decided to transfer even a month ago -- Campbell will be immediately eligible upon enrolling at his new school.
"I decided to transfer because it was a blessing in disguise," Campbell said by phone Monday. "The opportunity to go to any other school that I wanted to without sitting out a year -- that was awesome."
According to NCAA spokeswoman Stacy Osburn, any USC junior or senior is essentially allowed to re-open his recruiting process with only one caveat: the player's next school would have to submit an official waiver to the NCAA asking to waive the "year in residence," which would likely be approved.
In three years with the Trojans, Campbell starred primarily on special teams while earning just one start -- against Washington State in 2009. He led the Trojans in tackles against the Cougars with eight but sprained his ankle late in the game and missed the next three contests while recovering.
He said he lost his place in the depth chart because of the injury. By the time he was healthy, his spot was no longer available and he felt he had lost valuable competition time.
"I'm confident enough in my game where I can go to another school and start for the next two years," said Campbell, who added that he is considering a number of schools, including Boise State. "And there's a lot of guys here who could do the same thing, but we're at SC and we came into SC to compete and battle for those starting positions."
Campbell, who has a large USC tattoo on his arm, said he will remain a Trojan fan, no matter his next destination. But, he said, "at the end of the day, I have to do what's best for my family and for myself."
Asked if he could see his transfer foretelling the exodus of a number of other Trojan juniors and seniors, Campbell said, "I can't comment on anybody else because I don't want people to be persuaded by my decision. But I'm saying we have four, five starters across the board at USC. You go into another school, you have a lot of opportunities to go out there and be the man, play every single game."
In a brief Thursday press conference following the official announcement of the NCAA-imposed sanctions, Kiffin was asked if he was concerned about the potential that Trojan juniors and seniors would transfer because of the eliminated restriction.
"If someone wants to leave the best place in the country to play football, we won't stop them," the first-year coach said.
The loss of Campbell leaves the Trojans significantly shorthanded at linebacker, a spot where they had already been suffering from a lack of depth. In Devon Kennard, Chris Galippo, Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan, USC has four supremely talented linebackers. Unfortunately, the Trojans -- playing a 4-3 system under assistant head coach Monte Kiffin -- have only available three starting spots. But behind those four is only one letterwinner, redshirt junior Shane Horton, and two other scholarship players, redshirt freshmen Simione Vehikite and Marquis Simmons.
USC does have two linebackers enrolling in the fall: junior-college transfer Glen Stanley (Thatcher, Ariz./Eastern Arizona JC) and Hayes Pullard (Los Angeles, Calif./Crenshaw).