It's no surprise at all that Matt Kalil is departing for the NFL. As a left tackle, you don't trade away a shot at a guaranteed life savings with a max rookie contract as a top five pick for a shot at a mythical national championship. You've got to go. You have to protect yourself and your chances at being a legend in the league. Nothing is more important.
Nick Perry too. Perry is probably headed toward first round draft pick status as a critical outside edge rusher, so it hardly makes any sense to risk that speed getting crashed down under the weight of a bad line block. Take the money and run with it, especially when you're in a position of high value.
So here comes the natural question: Is Matt Barkley next?
Barkley and Kalil have been rumored to be a package in this draft class. If one declares, so will the other. If one stays, so will the other. Kalil's going, so either these rumors are fabrications (imagine that!) or the quarterback is reneging.
I'm sure Lane Kiffin is trying to bandy about the same old reasons as to why he should come back. Barkley's entire receiving corps is here. So do a few of his top running backs and the majority of his offensive line. Even with Kalil gone, this could be an elite offense among elites--contingent on Barkley coming back, of course.
Barkley could also boost his draft stock if he comes back. Right now he might not be even among the top two of his draft class, as Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III both provide interesting contrasts in how to dominate at the quarterbacking position. Barkley is in a position of need, but he might have to wait a little bit longer. Not a huge reason to comeback. A bigger reason is if Barkley returns he immediately becomesthe consensus 2013 #1 draft pick. It's not as if Barkley is in danger of getting seriously injured in the offense USC runs, which favors bootlegs, quick throws and rollouts to evade pressure. Why not give it a shot even if your left tackle can't seal off edge rushers at will?
Additionally (although I doubt Kiffin mentions this), unlike Kalil, Barkley faces some uncertainty as to how well he can thrive in the pros. Matt Leinart, John David Booty, Mark Sanchez, Carson Palmer, only two are still starting, and only one puts up half-decent performances. The long list of USC mediocrity at the quarterbacking position in the pros is pretty irrefutable in the modern era. Barkley is probably the most talented of the bunch, but it's a bit uncertain as to how far he can go.
There's still plenty of upside to the Trojans. USC is attracting some big offensive tackles in recruiting like Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy; Kalil's departure allows Kiffin to sell these monuments with fast feet and long arms the prospect of immediately playing and starting in the Coliseum, playing on national TV night after night (hard to turn down, isn't it?). So it's possible that the departures of yesterday could mean big arrivals coming in the tomorrow.
It's not like USC will be bereft at the quarterback position either. I'm pretty sure that Jesse Scroggins, Max Wittek and Cody Kessler could all start at major Division I powers instead of languishing on the bench in Los Angeles, and the passing game won't drop off too far.
However, USC's hopes at a championship probably rested on the super juniors returning. With Kalil and Perry gone, and the most bandied-about junior of them all possibly joining them on the way out, you have to wonder how augmented the possibilities become for the Men of Troy in 2012.