Posted on: March 7, 2012 7:04 pm
LOS ANGELES -- USC's biggest stars did not do a lot of work at Pro Day on Wednesday but there was no lack of drama.
Offensive tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry, ranked in NFLDraftScout.com's top 32 with Kalil in the top five of Rob Rang's Big Board, did some position drills but did not replicate any of their NFL combine work because they were pleased with their initial results.
"These drills come easy to me," said Kalil, who is projected to be the third pick in the NFL draft. "It's cool to look at (mock drafts). But anything can happen on draft day."
Kalil (6-foot-6 5/8, 308 pounds) said he would take USC coach Lane Kiffin to New York as a guest for the NFL draft in April, when he'll be one of the dozen or so prospects in attendance at the Thursday primetime event.
"Coach Kiffin did a lot for me," he said. "He will be in the green room with me."
Perry, who weighed 270 pounds, said he "could have done better" on some of his position drills but was pleased overall, especially combined with his combine results. He is projected to be a first-round pick.
"I get asked a lot by NFL teams about certain schemes because everyone wants to know if I can also play in a 3-4 (defense)," Perry said. "It's good to be in the conversation (for the first round)."
USC defensive tackle Armond Armstead was not as fortunate.
He was informed by the school Tuesday night that university attorneys would not allow him to participate in Pro Day because of liability issues.
USC would not clear Armstead to play last season because of an unspecified medical condition that was discovered last spring. Armstead experienced chest pains last year but neither he nor school officials ever disclosed any medical problems.
He was expected to transfer to another school for his senior year but recently decided instead to turn pro.
"One of my main reasons to transfer was to play with brother (Oregon defensive lineman Arik Armstead)," Armond said. "But I wasn't allowed (by USC) to transfer to another Pac-12 school."
Armond Armstead said he was "perfectly healthy" and would have his own Pro Day on April 9. He underwent an NFL evaluation following the 2010 season and said was projected as a second-round pick. He looked noticeably slimmer and weighed 285 pounds at USC on Wednesday.
"I'm in good shape," Armstead said. "I'm not combine ready. I'm just looking for an opportunity to play football. "
Defensive tackle DaJohn Harris, who mysteriously did not work out at the NFL combine after arriving in Indianapolis, said he was medically excluded because a Cleveland Browns doctor discovered he had a natural heart defect known as patent foramen ovale.
A "PFO" is a flap or valve-like opening present in everyone before birth but seals shut for 80 percent of the population. It does have symptoms. Harris said his personal cardiologist emailed all NFL teams to assure them he was OK.
"I hope teams realize I was fine," Harris said. "I feel I did pretty good."Harris (6-3, 304) ran the 40-yard dash in 5.07 seconds.
Tailback Marc Tyler, who experienced a disappointing combine, redeemed himself with a time of 4.64 in the 40. He said he pulled a hamstring in Indianapolis and was nervous throughout his workouts.
"It was way better (Wednesday)," Tyler said.
Tyler said NFL teams asked him about a possible drinking problem after his famous video on TMZ.com last summer that resulted in a one-game suspension.
"I've gotten a lot of questions," he said. "I just told the truth. I made mistakes and drank too much."
Posted on: December 23, 2011 2:31 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:45 pm
Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley announced Thursday that he will be returning for his senior season.
Below is a video of his announcement, complete with USC cheerleaders and members of the marching band trumpeting his decision.
Barkley's decision, coupled with the other returning players they have, would appear to put USC back into the national title conversation for 2012. It also sets him up for a run at the Heisman Trophy and perhaps the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft.
As my colleague Mike Freeman points out, however, Barkley's decision is a risky one. One scout Freeman spoke to, in fact, called the move a "foolish business decision." From my perspective, having a strong understanding of the quarterback talent thought likely to be returning to school with Barkley, it certainly sets up for an exciting battle between the USC quarterback, Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Florida State's E.J. Manuel, among others, for to be the top senior rated passer heading into the 2011-12 season... assuming, of course, that they do decide to return, after all.
While scouts love the 6-2, 220 pound Barkley's readiness for the NFL, there is no denying that the strong arms and size of the 6-4, 230 pound Jones and 6-4, 245 pound Manuel are more physically impressive.
Posted on: December 22, 2011 5:48 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:46 pm
Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley isn't going anywhere.
Barkley, the second-ranked player in NFLDraftScout.com's overall rankings, announced Thursday that he will be back at USC for his senior season in 2012.
"I have not yet finished my journey as a Trojan football player," Barkley said, adding that the USC team has some "serious unfinished business, and I intend to play a part in it."
"I am prepared to play quarterback in the NFL. It is my dream to play quarterback in the NFL," Barkley said Thursday at Heritage Hall on the campus of USC. But he said he will finish the "exceptional and unique journey he has had at USC" following in the footsteps of Luck and eventual top 10 pick Matt Leinart, who after the 2004 season opted to return for his fifth year.
Alex Smith was the No. 1 overall pick in '04, when many projected Leinart to be the top available quarterback at the end of the season. But Leinart had surgery for elbow tendinitis, which would've surely reduced his draft value, before his senior season and wound up as the No. 10 overall pick.
Jake Locker (Washington), Peyton Manning (Tennessee) and Eli Manning all returned for their senior seasons despite buzz that they would be a cinch to be drafted in the top 10.
How Barkley's decision, arrived upon after meeting with coach Lane Kiffin, athletic director Pat Haden and current and former USC players, to give Tinseltown one last spin but pass on the NFL will play out is unknown. But there's no argument about the level of talent returning at USC, which is expected to have a top five preseason ranking in 2012.
There are few doubts about Barkley as a pro prospect, but there are questions. He solicited a detailed evaluation from the NFL Draft Advisory Committee earlier in the month.
The actual grade Barkley was given by the NFL Advisory Committee is likely to remain a secret, NFLDraftScout.com has spoken to enough high-ranking pro scouts to confirm our own ranking of the Trojan passer as a legitimate first-round talent. Barkley ranked No. 2 behind only Andrew Luck in NFLDraftScout.com's quarterback rankings, which lists only those potentially available for the 2012 draft. He was also the No. 2 prospect overall.
University of Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian, who worked with Barkley when coaching at Southern California and has faced his former pupil and Stanford's Andrew Luck twice since he moved to Seattle, told the media in November that, "If I'm an NFL head coach right now, I'd pick Matt Barkley ahead of Andrew Luck."
Scouts do have some reservations about Barkley's physical tools. Listed by Southern California at just 6-2, 220 pounds, he doesn't possess the height or bulk preferred at the position and has been protected by a strong Trojan offensive line throughout his career.
Some talent evaluators question whether Barkley has the arm strength to make every NFL throw. Though Southern Cal operates out of a pro-style offense, Barkley is rarely asked to drive the ball to the opposite hash. When he does so, his passes tend to wobble slightly. Because the USC junior has a technically clean set-up, delivery and release, the wobbly passes are thought to be an indication that Barkley may have small hands and only moderate overall arm strength.
While these traits do serve as potential red flags, scouts have much more to like about Barkley than they dislike. As mentioned, Barkley is a technically refined passer well-groomed in a pro-style offense. While many of today's rookie quarterbacks require time on the sideline to acclimate, Barkley is seen as relatively ready to "plug and play." His leadership and toughness have drawn raves from those close to the Southern Cal program. In the history of Southern California no true freshman quarterback had ever earned the starting role in the season opener until Barkley. Operating under the constant glare of Los Angeles sans an NFL team, Barkley is used to being a high-profile athlete in a major media market.
While there may be little in terms of NFL readiness for Barkley to gain in returning for his senior season, the allure of team and personal goals ultimately proved too much for the Trojan passer to leave school early. After being banned the past two years from bowl games due to the Reggie Bush scandal, Southern Cal is eligible for a bowl next year and is, not surprisingly, loaded to make a big run.
The loss of left tackle Matt Kalil early to the NFL is offset by the fact that Southern Cal is expected to return their other four starters up front. Southern Cal was one of only seven teams this season that didn't start a senior on their offensive line. The fact that Barkley is returning to throw to arguably the best receiving corps in the country in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee and their leading rusher from last season, Curtis McNeal.
Completing 69.1 percent of his passes for 3,528 yards and a sparkling 39-7 touchdown to interception ratio, Barkley was as effective as any quarterback in the country. The fact that despite these numbers and Southern Cal being the high-profile program it is Barkley wasn't even invited as a Heisman finalist may have also contributed to his decision to return early.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 8:06 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:46 pm
The Trojans may have lost offensive tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry early to the NFL, but they can take solace in the fact that junior free safety T.J. McDonald will be returning for his senior campaign.
McDonald, the son of former Southern Cal All-American and San Francisco 49er Tim McDonald, announced via an interview at USCTrojans.com the news Wednesday afternoon.
The video, which can be seen below and by following this link, as well, shows McDonald in full USC regalia answering various questions about his decision, the role his father and head coach Lane Kiffin played in the decision and what, if any, impact T.J.'s choice may have on Southern Cal's other prominent junior known to be considering making the NFL leap, junior quarterback Matt Barkley.
McDonald cites both team and personal goals as seasons why he made the choice to return. The potential to play in a bowl game as well as match his father's All-American pedigree, compete for the Thorpe Award and get his degree are specifically mentioned.
Though McDonald is rated as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2 free safety potentially available for the 2012 draft, the decision is a sound one. McDonald, who like former USC standout Taylor Mays, is at his best driving downhill towards the line of scrimmage, would be challenging a relatively strong class of senior safeties and is likely to enter next year as the elite prospect at his position.
McDonald finished 2011 with 67 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss. The 6-2, 205 pound junior led the team with three interceptions and also blocked a kick and recovered a fumble in earning First Team All-Pac-12 honors this season.
Posted on: December 16, 2011 3:45 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:47 pm
A couple of weeks ago I predicted that the first underclassment to declare early for the NFL draft might come from Miami and Southern California. This was not only because of the fact that both programs are consistent producers of talent but also because neither was going to be playing in a bowl game this year.
I anticipated a few 'Canes and Trojans might leave early. Instead, it is quickly proving to be a case of mass exodus from both programs -- which continued on Friday with the news that offensive tackle Brandon Washington and defensive end Olivier Vernon were leaving Miami for the NFL.
They join redshirt sophomore running back Lamar Miller, wide receiver Tommy Streeter and defensive tackle Marcus Forston in former 'Canes leaving Al Golden's program for the NFL since the end of the season.
Southern Cal, likewise has already seen two prospects leave early -- offensive tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry. Quarterback Matt Barkley and safety T.J. McDonald are also known to be strongly considering making the leap.
Of the two newest underclassmen leaving Coral Gables, Washington is the more highly regarded pro prospect. The 6-4, 320 pound Washington has starred for the Hurricanes at left tackle and left guard. Though he played well outside at tackle this season, most project him back inside at guard in the NFL. Washington has a short, stock build. He is surprisingly light on his feet and plays with intensity and physicality. The feeling among scouts is that Washington could play outside at the next level, but he could become a Pro Bowl caliber guard.
Washington had previously told members of the media that he was returning to school, explaining that he had not even petitioned the NFL for a grade, was excited about the progress Miami was making and was committed to earning the college degree that no one else in his family had previously attained.
The lure of NFL dollars, however, must have proven too much for Washington. He is currently behind only Stanford's David DeCastro (who also is leaving school early) among NFLDraftScout.com's 2013 guard prospects.
Vernon is a very surprising choice to leave early considering that he was suspended for the first six games of the season due to taking accepting innappropriate benefits from a booster and registered just 18 tackles on the season. The 6-3, 265 pound true junior had flashed earlier in his career, recording 10.5 tackles for loss and six sacks a year ago. Vernon has an explosive burst off the snap but still needs a lot of technical work to earn consistent playing time at the pro level. He is viewed as a prospect potentially capable of making the switch to outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme, which does help his cause.
At this early point, however, Vernon is only ranked 29th among defensive ends in the 2013 class and thus not even a surely draftable commodity.
Posted on: December 16, 2011 9:13 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:48 pm
As it turns out, Matt Kalil is heading off to the NFL early, after all.
Beginning with a tweet from ESPN's Chris Mortensen and later confirmed by direct quotes from Kalil to the Los Angeles Times, Kalil erased any doubt about his future intentions.
The AP All-American told Gary Klein of the Times that "It was definitely a tough decision because I love SC. But, it's a special opportunity. It's time to move on."
It had been widely presumed that Kalil -- rated by NFLDraftScout.com as a potential top ten pick since September -- would strongly consider making the leap. He'd proven himself in two starting seasons as the Trojans' left tackle, keeping the Dallas Cowboys' 2010 first round pick Tyron Smith on the right side and earning comparisons to the great Tony Boselli along the way.
As such, when I heard rumbling a week ago that Kalil was "set to return" to USC I was as surprised as anyone. Upon hearing news of Kalil's confirmed intent to file early for the draft, I contacted my source again.
"I am surprised he is coming out," the source said, "especially with so much time before [the January 15] deadline. The impression I had was that [Kalil's] decision was going to take into account strongly whatever the quarterback decided to do. It almost seemed like the quarterback was looking for an excuse to come back. He loves it there. So, there was talk that he might come back and in doing so convince Kalil to do the same. The fact that [USC] would be past the bowl ban next year was a pretty big motivator for some of the guys."
Lane Kiffin's bunch is talented enough to once again be a primetime player in the Pac-12 conference even without their latest Morris Trophy winner, but with the offensive tackle and defensive end Nick Perry both leaving the Trojans early for the NFL, it will certainly be made more difficult.
It also puts the spotlight directly on quarterback Matt Barkley, who hasn't yet made a formal decision about his intentions.
Posted on: December 15, 2011 5:14 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:48 pm
'Tis the season for underclassmen to leave college early for a chance at the NFL.
Posted on: December 8, 2011 9:14 am
Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil is "set to return" for his senior season according to a source close to the situation.
Kalil, 6-6 and 295 pounds, just finished his second season as the Trojans' starting left tackle. He earned First Team All Pac-12 honors and is currently rated by NFLDraftScout.com as the No. 3 overall prospect in the country. Though his older brother, Ryan, returned for his senior campaign at USC prior to the center being drafted in the second round of the 2007 draft by the Carolina Panthers, most expected Matt to leave early.
A high-ranking NFL scout confirmed that he'd also heard Kalil was "definitely leaning towards returning" and that the decision surprised he and his scouting peers, as well.
"If he does indeed return, it would be a bit surprising. He's the top offensive tackle in the country. The senior class [at offensive tackle] is a weak group. At worst, he'd be looking at a top ten pick. That fact alone would send most guys into the draft."
Kalil's remarkable combination of size and athleticism had kept the Dallas Cowboys' 2011 first round pick Tyron Smith playing on the right side during his career with the Trojans. That didn't keep Jerry Jones and his staff from selecting Smith with the No. 9 overall pick. Smith, incidentally, has performed well this season as the Cowboys' starting right tackle.
Kalil has long been projected to enter the 2012 draft. Chad Reuter and I have each projected him as a potential top five pick in our current first round mock drafts.
Should Kalil return, it could set off of chain reaction pushing other talented USC underclassmen -- including quarterback Matt Barkley -- to shun the NFL and return for their senior seasons. The Trojans' bowl ban ends this year. Considering the talent this team has potentially coming back, a return to national title contention would appear possible.