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T.J. McDonald returning to USC

USC junior safety T.J. McDonald announced Wednesday that he will return for his final season with the Trojans in 2012.

"USC has been a powerful place for my family and it has been a part of my entire life," McDonald said in a statement released by the school. "I came to USC at a unique time, when we were on probation, and a bowl ban, and nobody on my team was part of the reason for that bowl ban. We took it on full force and now we are on the way back to the greatness of USC.

"Being a captain of this team and part of that greatness, we have an opportunity to do something great. That opportunity doesn't come around very often. I want to finish things out and be a part of something great. So I am returning to USC for my senior season."

McDonald was named a first-team All-American by both the Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly and also was named first-team All Pac-12 conference. McDonald finished third on the team in tackles (67) and also added three interceptions as the Trojans finished the season with a 10-2 record.

McDonald and his father Tim became the first father-son tandem in USC history to both be named All-Americans. Tim was an All-American safety for the Trojans in 1985 and 1986; he later played in the NFL with the Cardinals and 49ers.

The announcement by McDonald was good news for USC coach Lane Kiffin -- who has already seen juniors Matt Kalil and Nick Perry depart early for the NFL and is still awaiting a decision from Matt Barkley.

The deadline to declare is Jan. 15; the deadline to pull out of the draft once declared is Jan. 18.

"We're obviously very excited about T.J.'s decision to return next year," Kiffin said. "He'll be a leading candidate for the Thorpe Award in 2012 and he has a chance to be a two-time All-American, plus he will captain our team for a second straight year and graduate.

"T.J. and his family did a phenomenal job throughout the decision-making process. As we have done with our other players, we told him we would support whatever decision he made.

"We now return our starting back seven players on defense next season, and T.J. will anchor that group. That's great news."

McDonald said he considered leaving for the NFL "really strongly" and added that he was at times "leaning that way."

But, "after looking at the big picture, after looking at everything, I think that I'm making the right decision," he said. "USC is a very powerful place and something that I want to be a part of, this university -- not just for three years and cut this story short but be able to finish this out for all four years."

The Trojans also announced the signings on Wednesday of a pair of junior college players in safety Gerald Bowman from Pierce College (Calif.) and defensive end Morgan Breslin from Diablo Valley College (Calif.).

"With T.J.'s announcement that he is returning and with the signing of the two junior college players earlier today, these are three wonderful early Christmas presents for Trojan fans," Kiffin said.

Garry Paskwietz is the publisher of WeAreSC.com. Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Pedro Moura was used in this report.