'Tis the season for underclassmen to leave college early for a chance at the NFL.
While NFL teams will certainly be pleased with the pass-rushing "present" they're set to receive from Southern California, they certaintly won't be surprised by the gift. It has been common knowledge for quite some time that junior defensive end Nick Perry would be parlaying his breakout 2011 season into a shot at NFL millions.
Last week I had a source tell me that another Trojan, junior left tackle Matt Kalil, was "set to return" to USC. Since, Kalil has told reporters that he hasn't made an official decision. I've had numerous other sources tell me since my initial report that Kalil is almost certainly going to leave school early, as many had originally assumed he would. Kalil, after all, is considered by most to be the elite offensive tackle potentially available for the 2012 draft and thus, a likely top ten pick. Not many players are willing to forfeit such an opportunity.
Similarly, I've heard that USC quarterback Matt Barkley is also carefully weighing his options. Like his blindside protector, Kalil, Barkley looks the part of a top ten pick. Therefore, some would consider him foolish to even consider returning for his senior season and risking injury or poor play that could send his stock crashing. Barkley and Kalil, however, each seem very happy at USC and may relish the opportunity to help take USC back to bowl game next year, as the university's bowl ban ends after this season.
It had been well known in scouting circles, however, that Perry had been actively shopping for agents since December 1, when agents abiding by NCAA rules could contact underclassmen. Perry, sources tell me, has signed with the firm Lock, Metz and Malinovic. LMM&P represents Tyron Smith, whom the Dallas Cowboys selected ninth overall in April, a former teammate of Perry's at USC.
Many believe that the the 6-3, 255 pound Perry is ultimately likely to be rewarded for his decision with a first round draft pick. Perry emerged as a First Team All-Pac-12 player this season, leading the Trojans in sacks (9.5) and tackles for loss (13) as well as leading the team's defensive linemen with 54 stops. Perry is a good football player but a great athlete. As such, many feel that he is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. Perry's upside, therefore, could lead to a rapid rise up the board.
Perry is currently the No. 25 player on my Big Board. He's going even higher on my current mock draft, however.