T.J. McDonald: 5 Things You Need to Know About the USC FS
T.J. McDonald has been on the radar of mainstream scouts for a couple years now. There were some that came to the conclusion that he'd forgo his senior season and enter the 2012 draft.
Much like his former teammate, Matt Barkley, I am pretty sure McDonald wishes he had done exactly that—at least from a football aspect.
McDonald is now considered a mid-round prospect after struggling through his senior season.
That being said, you can expect him to be a difference-maker at the next level. He has the athleticism and talent to start in the defensive secondary.
Let's take a look at five things you simply must know about the NFL prospect.
Full Name: T.J. McDonald
Date of Birth: January 26, 1991
Hometown: Fresno, California
High School: Edison High School in Fresno, CA
McDonald was a 5-star recruit and ranked No. 2 among safeties coming out of Edison High School in California (via Scout.com). He chose his home state Trojans over Miami, Michigan and Nebraska, among other high-profile programs.
His accolades coming out of high school (via USCTrojans.com) were nothing short of amazing. McDonald was a Super Prep All-American, Scout.com First Team All-American and a member of the ESPN 150.
Freshman (2009): 13 games, seven tackles and four solo.
Sophomore (2010): 12 games, 89 tackles, 54 solo, four passes broken up and three interceptions.
Junior (2011): 12 games, 67 tackles, 39 solo, two passes broken up and three interceptions.
Senior (2012): 13 games, 110 tackles, 54 solo, three passes broken up and two interceptions.
McDonald sat behind former second-round pick Taylor Mays at free safety during his freshman season. He recorded seven tackles and played mostly on special teams.
There was, however, no doubt that McDonald would get into the regular rotation for USC at some point in the near future.
That future represented his sophomore campaign.
The talented safety took over for Mays the following season and never looked back. He finished ninth in the PAC-10 in tackles, ninth in solo tackles and eighth in interceptions. His performance as a sophomore earned McDonald All-Second Team PAC-10 honors.
McDonald struggled a bit more as a junior. He was nowhere near as reliable in coverage. That being said, he did earn First Team PAC-12 honors and was a member of the SI.com All-American Second Team.
Where McDonald may have struggled as a junior, he stepped back up in 2012. He finished fourth in the conference in tackles. He was a Thorpe Award and Lott Trophy candidate heading into 2012.
All statistics provided by CFBStats.com.
Weight: 219 lbs.
Arm Length: 33.1125"
Hand Size: 9.25"
Broad Jump: 131.0"
40-Yard Dash: 4.59
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.20
Three-Cone Drill: 6.89
Vertical Jump: 40.0"
Bench Press: 19 reps at 225 lbs.
Interestingly enough, the hard-hitting safety performed much better in the generic drills at the combine than most people anticipated. He finished in the middle of the pack among safeties with a solid 4.59 40-yard dash, but excelled in the most important three-cone drill. His 6.89 time surpassed that of more celebrated free safety prospect Eric Reid, which was surprising in my mind.
In addition, McDonald finished in the top five among safeties in both the broad and vertical jumps.
Outside of the generic drills, it seems that McDonald did himself a lot of favors in the eyes of the scouts in Indianapolis and at USC's pro day.
Russ Lande of National Football Post had the following to say about his pro day performance:
After an up and down final season, safety T.J. McDonald had an expectedly strong work out today. No one has ever doubted McDonald’s athleticism and today he showed that he is an elite athlete for a 6’2, 210+ pound safety. Quick and compact in his backpedal; his fluid hips and feet were accentuated in his ability to flip his hips to change directions with remarkable ease.
That's what surprises me the most. There is no doubt in my mind that McDonald has the athleticism to be a great safety in the NFL—it is all about his ability to cover from the back end of the defense.
All combine numbers and measurements provided by NFL.com.
T.J. stands for Tim Jr. and he was named after his famous father Tim McDonald, who starred in the National Football League for 13 seasons. The elder McDonald made six trips to the Pro Bowl and was a key cog in the San Francisco 49ers' Super Bowl-winning club in 1994.
McDonald's brother, Tevin, is currently a defensive back for UCLA. He tied a school record with three interceptions against the University of California in 2011 and will be its starting free safety as a senior in 2013.
Needless to say, McDonald comes to the NFL with the pedigree and talent to be a darn good football player. That being said, there have been questions about how his game translates to the next level.
When asked about where McDonald will land in the upcoming draft, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller responded: "Late 2nd to early 3rd round."
That's pretty much been the notion around the scouting community since the Southern California product performed extremely well at both the combine and his pro day. Prior to that, there were many that considered him a solid fourth-round prospect and nothing more.
The interesting thing here is that Miller indicated this value prior to either postseason event.
B/R's Ryan Lownes seems to view McDonald in the same light and even came up with a possible fit in his 32 in 32 Twitter series:
At S, the (New York) Giants have several options including Eric Reid (2nd), Johnathan Cyprien (2nd), and T.J. McDonald (3rd)
While I doubt very much that Cyprien falls to the second round, McDonald would be a great fit for the New York Giants as a possible replacement for Antrel Rolle in the future.
Vincent Frank is an NFL featured columnist here at Bleacher Report. Vincent is the head sports editor over at eDraft, co-host of Draft Sports Radio, which airs every Monday and Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. ET and a fantasy writer for Pro Football Focus.
Go ahead and give him a follow on Twitter @VincentFrankNFL.