Which USC Football stars declared early for the 2018 NFL Draft?


With the deadline to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft gone, four USC Football underclassmen opted to leave for the pros. Who is going and staying?

Monday was the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft, adding some clarity to USC Football’s 2018 roster.

The Trojans now know they will lose four players to the NFL: quarterback Sam Darnold, running back Ronald Jones II, wide receiver Deontay Burnett and defensive end Rasheem Green.

Darnold was the first to declare, announcing his intention to leave with a video just days after USC’s Cotton Bowl loss to Ohio State. His departure will accelerate the quarterback battle between Matt Fink, Jack Sears and incoming five-star quarterback JT Daniels. Regardless of who wins the contest, the Trojans new-look offense will feature a first-time starter at quarterback with heavy expectations on his shoulders.

Jones II was the next domino to fall exactly a week after the Cotton Bowl while Burnett’s decision followed a couple days later on Jan. 8. Though obviously costly losses as two of USC’s top skill position players, Jones II and Burnett figure to be somewhat easier to replace as running back Stephen Carr and an ever-increasing pool of talented receivers come into their own.

The final player to declare was Green on Saturday, the only defensive underclassman to make the draft plunge.

However, with as many as 10 underclassman seeking NFL draft evaluations, USC can also take heart in returning a large group of draft-eligible players for 2018.

Headlining those is middle linebacker Cameron Smith, whose decision to return may have the biggest impact of any Trojan leaving or staying. A senior season for Smith means USC will bring at least one captain, with Darnold leaving and Uchenna Nwosu and Chris Hawkins graduating. His return will give USC a veteran presence at a thin position, ensuring the Trojans will be able to give highly-touted prospects like Levi Jones or incoming freshman Palaie Gaotote time to develop before throwing them into the firing line.

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Smith isn’t the only linebacker ready to get in another season of work. Porter Gustin, whose 2017 season was cut short by a broken toe, will also come back for a hopefully more-healthy 2018.

Cornerback Iman Marshall also gave USC’s defense a boost in announcing his intention to play his senior season.

It would seem that safety Marvell Tell is set to return as well, though an announcement could still be forthcoming so long as he submitted paperwork to the NFL on time on Monday.

Offensively, right tackle Chuma Edoga confirmed his decision to return immediately after the Cotton Bowl while right tackle Toa Lobendahn waited until January to make his choice to come back with an eye on moving back to center.

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With things as they stand now, the Trojans have lost four starters to the NFL and four to graduation. Of those players who got the start in the Cotton Bowl, 15 are due to return.

UPDATE: The NFL released their official list of early entrants for the 2018 NFL Draft. For USC, thos include Deontay Burnett, Sam Darnold, Rasheem Green and Ronald Jones II.

Marvell Tell was not among those underclassmen who will be eligible for the draft.