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.