Left tackle Matt Kalil to enter NFL draft

USC junior left tackle Matt Kalil has decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2012 NFL draft, the school announced Friday.

Kalil, who did not allow a sack last season, is projected by several scouting services to be the first offensive tackle selected in next April’s draft.

“The decision to leave USC after my junior year was not an easy one to make,” Kalil said in a statement. “I love this university. That’s why it took a while to decide. I wanted to look at both sides of the decision and talk to a number of people.”

Carlo Acenas | Daily Trojan

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen first reported Kalil’s decision Thursday night.

In 2011, Kalil led a USC offensive line that allowed the fewest sacks of any unit in the country.

The 6-foot-7 junior has started the last two seasons at left tackle for the Trojans, after serving as a backup to Charles Brown in 2009 and redshirting in 2008 — his first year with the program.

“I realize that if I came back to USC next season, I could be part of some special things here and potentially win a national championship,” Kalil said. “That was very tempting. But in my research, I came to the conclusion that I can be the No. 1 tackle drafted and you can’t go any higher than that. Now is the right time to go.”

Kalil is among four draft-eligible juniors contemplating whether to turn or pro or return to USC. Quarterback Matt Barkley, safety T.J. McDonald and defensive end Nick Perry have not, however, announced their decisions. Though a report from ESPNLosAngeles.com on Friday indicated that Perry has signed with an agent and will head to the professional ranks. Underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to declare for the draft.

USC coach Lane Kiffin remains in support of Kalil’s decision to leave school.

“Matt was thorough in his research and made a decision that is the right one for him,” Kiffin said in a statement Friday. “We fully support that decision and we told him so. He is ready for the NFL. He will be a very high draft pick and will have a long, successful career.”

Kalil is the younger brother of former USC center Ryan Kalil, who was selected by the Carolina Panthers with the 59th overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft. The elder Kalil signed a six-year $49-million contract extension last August, making him the highest-paid center in the league.