Considered possible top five picks in next April's NFL draft, it should come as no surprise that Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley and left tackle Matt Kalil are considering leaving school early.
According to multiple sources, these aren't the only Trojans exploring their options.
Defensive end Nick Perry, a 6-3, 250 pounder in the midst of a breakout campaign is also strongly considering making the jump to the pros. I've been told that if Perry receives a first round grade, the decision has essentially been made. Even if the grade he receives from the NFL Advisory Committee is "a little lower than [first round], he'd still likely go."
Perry led the Pac-12 with 9.5 sacks through the regular season. He also has 13 tackles for loss among his 54 stops, which ties him for third in the conference and three forced fumbles. While slimmer than scouts might want as a full-time defensive end in the 4-3 alignment, Perry's size and athleticism may make him perfectly suited to transition to outside linebacker for a 3-4 club.
Free safety T.J. McDonald is also strongly considering making the leap to the NFL early. The son of former USC All-American and San Francisco 49ers' All-Pro safety Tim McDonald, the 6-2, 205 pound Trojan star has a build and reputation as a big hitter reminiscent of former USC standout Taylor Mays. McDonald has proven to be more comfortable in coverage than his former teammate, however, and has better ball skills. He leads the team with three interceptions this year and had three in 2010, when he earned Second Team All Pac-10 honors in just his first season as a starter. McDonald led the Trojans in tackles (89) in 2010. He finished third this season with 67 stops, including 2.5 for loss.
Perry is currently rated 30th overall on my Big Board and is sixth overall among defensive ends on NFLDraftScout.com's rankings.
McDonald is my 40th rated prospect and ranks second behind only Alabama's Mark Barron among NFLDraftScout.com's 2012 free safety prospects.