Posted by Jerry Hinnen
With no bowl giving them a reason to forestall disappointing the fanbase or informing their coaches, a pair of USC juniors have wasted no time in letting the world know where they stand in regards to the NFL draft:
It's never too big a shock when juniors declare early -- NFL paychecks are a little more flexible, spending-wise, than tuition waivers -- and it's even less so considering that the Trojans will still be barred from a bowl game in the 2010 juniors' hypothetical senior seasons. So no one will be too surprised to see players like Jurrell Casey and Tyron Smith depart.
But that doesn't mean it's not a big, big blow for Lane Kiffin's program. Smith has been a productive a two-year starter at right tackle, helping power the Trojans to a top-30 finish in rushing offense and an average of better than five yards per-carry in 2009. But it's Casey's decision that really stings, as he led SC in tackles-for-loss with 11, finished second in sacks, anchored the run defense, made first team All-Pac-10, and was generally agreed by many observers to Monte Kiffin's best defender -- including his teammates, who named him the team MVP .
Worst of all, with the NCAA restrictions on replacing SC's departed scholarship players and the Trojans' 2011 recruiting class limited to only 15 players this spring, finding replacements for Casey and Smith will be exponentially more difficult for Kiffin and Co. than for other top programs when their players leave early. It's simply bad news all the way around for the men of Troy.