Originally posted on Crystal Ball Run  |  Last updated 12/16/11

No one, not even Lane Kiffin, was shocked by the news that All-American offensive lineman Matt Kalil has decided to forego his final season at USC.

Kalil is considered the top offensive line prospect, and may even be the No. 2 overall selection after Stanford's Andrew Luck.

The bigger question/concern for USC and Kiffin is if this is the start of a mass exodus of draft-eligible Trojans—quarterback Matt Barkley, safety T.J. McDonald and end Nick Perry.

There was a general thought if Kalil decided to return for a USC team that would finally be off probation, and then the remaining three might lean more toward sticking around. Perry is the least likely to come back.

 

It's pretty clear that Barkley and McDonald will also be high draft picks, but could the lure of possibly contending for a championship be enough to return in 2012?

According to the Los Angeles Times, Kalil said he and Barkley would probably follow each other. However, Barkley said it would factor into his decision but not be an overriding factor. Maybe he will pull a Matt Leinart and return for his final season.

If Barkley returns, he'll be an immediate Heisman favorite and the Trojans will open the season as the Pac-12 favorite and likely ranked in the top five to start 2012.

Kalil will be missed, but not as much as Barkley. The three-year starter had his best season and has become the superstar that Pete Carroll saw when he recruited him.

If Barkley heads to the NFL, then Kiffin will likely go with Cody Kessler at quarterback next year. However, Kessler could have a battle for the starting job from Jesse Scroggins and Max Wittik. Scroggins was slated to be the back-up before an injury sidelined him this season.

It sounds like the USC of old as four- and five-star players battle for the starting job.

Kiffin would have preferred to have Kalil back next year, and I'm sure he's going to have some serious talks with the other three before they make a decision. But if he loses all four the Trojans are still going to be a Pac-12 favorite.

It may be odd, but all feels right in the college football world when USC is losing top talent to the NFL and we still believe the Trojans will be a force.

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