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.