USC’s Matt Kalil happy to put off NFL dreams

USC’s Matt Kalil is regarded as one of the elite left tackles in college football, a top prospect at one of the NFL’s premium positions.

But the 6-foot-7, 295-pound junior is trying to put 2012 draft forecasts out of his mind.

“It’s pretty cool having those [projections] about you, I’m not going to lie,” he said this week. “But I care about the ones after the season.

“It’s all about my team right now. That’s what I’m focused on.”

Kalil returned Friday after sitting out a few days of practices because of knee soreness.


And he could not be blamed if his thoughts drifted.

According to an ESPN report, his brother Ryan on Friday became the NFL’s highest-paid center, agreeing to a six-year, $49-million contract with the Carolina Panthers that will guarantee him $28 million.

The older Kalil, an All-American at USC, was a second-round draft pick in 2007, the 59th player chosen overall.

In April, former USC right tackle Tyron Smith was taken before any other offensive lineman in the draft, going to the Dallas Cowboys with the No. 9 pick. Smith reportedly signed a four-year deal worth a guaranteed $12.5 million.

Meanwhile, Matt Kalil is the most experienced member of a Trojans offensive line that will feature three new starters.

“We’re starting to mesh as a unit and starting to come together,” he said.

Fourth-year junior Khaled Holmes has moved from guard to center and third-year sophomore Kevin Graf is on track to start at right tackle.

The competition to determine starters at the guard spots will probably continue until the Sept. 3 opener against Minnesota.

Serra High connection

Receiver Robert Woods participated in all drills and made several nice catches, but the sophomore is still coping with a high ankle sprain.

“As of now it feels healed,” he said before noting, “It’s a little shaky at times.”

The return of Woods, a former star at Gardena Serra High, bolstered a receiver corps that includes two other Serra alums, freshmen Marqise Lee and George Farmer.

Lee has been the revelation of training camp. Coach Lane Kiffin said the 6-1, 205-pound Farmer has also done well despite nagging injuries.

“I think he’s one of those guys that shows up in games because he’s so big and physical — and sometimes maybe not in certain drills as much as he will in the game setting,” Kiffin said.

Quick hits

Safety T.J. McDonald (ankle) returned to practice. … Kiffin reiterated that injured quarterback Jesse Scroggins was replaced on the 105-player training-camp roster only so the Trojans could utilize all able-bodied players. Under NCAA rules, Scroggins cannot participate in practice or team activities until Monday, when fall semester classes begin. “He can always come in on his own and look at all the film himself,” Kiffin said. “We’ll catch him right back up.”