McDonald leads big day for the Trojans

What a great day it was for USC fans on Wednesday.

First there were the verbal commits from a pair of junior college players in safety Gerald Bowman from Woodland Hills Pierce College (Calif.) and defensive end Morgan Breslin from Diablo Valley College (Calif.).

Both players are expected to step into the defensive rotation right away. Breslin will help fill a void left by the early NFL draft entry of Nick Perry, while Bowman was ranked among the top junior college prospects in the nation -- a player good enough to be projected as a potential replacement if T.J. McDonald also decided to declare.

When Bowman made his announcement at noon that he would play for the Trojans, there was a lot of speculation from people wondering if that meant McDonald was gone.

Well, they didn’t have to wait long, as later in the afternoon the word came down that McDonald would be staying for his senior year at USC.

After the departures of Matt Kalil and Perry -- and with the pending decision from Matt Barkley -- it was good news on so many fronts for the Trojans.

On the football front it means the return of an All-American and the intact return of the entire back seven of the USC defense.

For the impact on team chemistry, it means the return of a team captain. McDonald is one of the true leaders of the Trojans, and his status will be invaluable for Lane Kiffin to help guide the USC ship next fall.

Before the day was over there was even more good news for the Trojans. It wasn’t unexpected news, but it was still nice to hear confirmation that the scholarship papers had been signed for linebacker Scott Starr (Norco HS/Calif.) and offensive tackle Chad Wheeler (Santa Monica HS/Calif.).

Both Starr and Wheeler will be enrolled in time for spring ball. For Starr, there is opportunity at middle linebacker to be the primary reserve behind Lamar Dawson, and he is ready to compete for that spot. Right now the Trojans have Will Andrew and Dallas Kelley as the other options. Wheeler is considered more of a long-term project, but that is all the more reason to get him working in the USC system as soon as possible. There are a lot of people who like his physical potential and aggressive playing style.

For Kiffin, the day couldn’t have gone much better. He gets a bona-fide All-American back on his roster for one more year, and he fills some critical early enrollee spots in a quality way -- something that was very important in this first year of recruiting sanctions. Kiffin needed to fill all his early entry spots, and he did. It’s not clear if Bowman will enroll in spring or not -- the coaches will hold a scholarship for him either way -- and the Trojans also have defensive end Devante Wilson scheduled to arrive in spring.

Wilson originally was signed as a member of the class of 2011, but a knee injury over the summer delayed his arrival at USC until the coming spring. His eligibility clock has not yet started, and his scholarship still will count against last year’s class.