Extra Points: The Next Level

USC safety T.J. McDonald has taken the next step in his development, according to head coach Lane Kiffin, who singled out the talented defensive back as one of the players that has impressed him this spring.

The next level - USC safety T.J. McDonald is arguably the top returning defensive player on the roster, following a sophomore season in which he recorded a team-high 89 tackles and three interceptions.

The talented defensive back has taken the next step in his development, according to head coach Lane Kiffin, who singled McDonald out as one of the players that has impressed him during spring practice.

"T.J. McDonald has taken his game to the next level," Kiffin said.

Much like Matt Barkley on the offensive side of the ball, McDonald emerged as a leader of the defense during offseason workouts, and is held in high regard by his fellow teammates.

Along with McDonald, Kiffin also praised the play of a handful of other Trojans:

D.J. Morgan - D.J. has flashed, as we mentioned…I think he's a pretty tough-minded kid, the way he finished the runs on the sideline and stuff.

Curtis McNeal – Curtis has done some things…I think Curtis McNeal put together a good day. That's two in a row. That's good to see. We obviously hope that he gets his academic work (in order) so he can help us on offense but on special teams especially. A pretty unique kid with the ability to be on special teams as an offensive player because he is so physical. A bright spot for us.

Rhett Ellison and Brandon Carswell - Rhett Ellison is playing extremely well. And I think Brandon Carswell would be the dark horse of camp as far as a guy who has not played a ton, has had a really good offseason. That is a lot of times typical when guys stay long enough.

Stay and play – As Lane Kiffin detailed this week, senior wide receiver Brandon Carswell was all but set to transfer out of USC for his final season of college ball.

"He was gone. He was leaving. He was taking advantage of the free-agency rule," Kiffin said.

Carswell, who had 16 receptions for 205 yards in 2010, would have been free to transfer without sitting out a year as part of the NCAA sanctions, but decided to remain at USC.

"We talked him into staying," Kiffin said. "Through his parents and some long conversations, he decided to stay."

That decision could result in some valuable playing time for the 6-1, 195-pound wide receiver in 2011.

"We used to say, if you stay you play," Kiffin said. "A lot of times guys that when they get here maybe aren't as athletic or talented, you stay long enough, you stay in the system, you get to your fourth or fifth year and you end up playing more and being productive. Hopefully that's where he is.

"It's a pretty good story."

Brandon Carswell could play an important role in 2011. (Jaime Rodriguez Photo)

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