Trojan underclassmen to declare for NFL Draft

Lane Kiffin and USC will not only be forced to contend with limited scholarship players stemming from NCAA sanctions next season, but also the departures of current underclassmen to the professional ranks.

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and offensive tackle Tyron Smith, both first-team All-Pac-10 selections, will each forgo their final season of eligibility and declare for April’s NFL Draft, according to reports appearing in multiple media outlets.

“We wish Jurrell and Tyron the best as they move on to a professional career and we thank them for their great contributions to the Trojan football program,” said Kiffin in a statement. “We realize there are many factors that go into a player’s decision to leave early or stay in school, and we’ll always support the decision that he and his family make.”

The decisions, however, do not come as a major surprise.

Casey was projected as an NFL prospect before the season began, and presently, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks the former Long Beach Poly High standout as the No. 4 defensive tackle among underclassmen. In 2010, Casey recorded 67 tackles, including 41/2 sacks, and was announced Sunday as the Trojans’ most valuable player at the team’s annual awards banquet held at Galen Center.

“I think I’m ready to go to the next level and play against the best,” Casey told Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times Tuesday.

Smith, who is also projected to be selected early in April’s draft, is currently ranked as the No. 5 overall underclassmen offensive tackle prospect according to Kiper.

“Seeing great players leave early for the NFL is something we’re very accustomed to at USC and it’s something that will continue to happen in the future,” Kiffin added. “We’ll continue to bring in great players like Jurrell and Tyron who will have opportunities to leave early for the NFL.”

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