USC is no stranger to players leaving for the NFL early and suffered a defection from at least one key player in the wake of the team’s recent Rose Bowl triumph.
In an Instagram post on Friday afternoon, offensive guard Damien Mama announced that he would forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the 2017 NFL Draft. The school later confirmed his intentions shortly thereafter.
Mama started for parts of three seasons for the Trojans and likely projects as a middle- to late-round draft pick in the spring. He started 12 games this season for the team and earned All-Pac-12 second team honors.
The absence of Mama for next season means that USC will now have to replace at least three starters off an offensive line that protected young star quarterback Sam Darnold and paved the way for tailback Ronald Jones. Backup Chris Brown did rotate in at the spot quite a bit in 2016 so there shouldn’t be too much of a drop off for a team that likely begins 2017 in the top 10 in all the preseason polls.
Mama’s announcement should be the first over the next several days for the Trojans, as star defensive back Adoree’ Jackson and wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster are also expected to decide whether to return to Los Angeles for another year or head to the pros.