University of Southern California defensive end Leonard Williams has announced the he will not return to school for his senior season declaring for the 2015 NFL Draft. ESPN analyst Todd McShay ranked Williams as the third best player in the entire draft and the top non-quarterback. During his tenure as a Trojan, Williams earned all-American honors in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons while proving to be among the top defensive players in the country.
In 2014, Williams dominated opposing defenses, racking up 80 tackles to go with seven sacks and an interception.
“This was a very hard decision for me,” Williams said in a released statement. “I love USC, Coach [Steve Sarkisian] and the coaching staff, my teammates and the fans, and I love the game of college football. It’s hard to leave all of that. I know life is never the same once you leave college.
Along with his high draft stock, Williams has a history of shoulder problems that could have influenced his decision to enter the NFL. Injuries are always a concern for NFL teams, but Williams’ excellent 2013 and 2014 seasons should silence any doubters that may arise.
With the ever strong flow of talent coming to USC, Sarkisian won’t have to look very far to find a talented pass rusher that can make an impact, but it will be extremely difficult for coach Sarkisian to find a comparable player to fill Williams’ void.
Despite being ranked in the Top 15 entering the year, Williams and the USC Trojans suffered a few questionable losses during their 2014 campaign. Regardless, they were able to put those shortcoming in the rearview when they ended their season in stylish fashion, and topped the Nebraska Cornhuskers 45-42 in the Holiday Bowl.
*Section Photo (above) credit to Winslow Towson, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports