USC DL Leonard Williams declares for 2015 NFL Draft

It didn't take long for Leonard Williams to decide he had accomplished what he needed to at USC following Saturday's Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska.

The Trojans defensive lineman announced Monday that he would bypass his senior year in Los Angeles and declare for the 2015 NFL Draft. The decision was made in a statement posted on the school's website.

"This was a very hard decision for me," Williams said. "I love USC, Coach Sark 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. But I feel like it's the right time for me to go. I feel like I'm ready. I'm looking forward to the new challenge that the NFL presents.

"I had a great experience at USC and enjoyed all three of my years here. I was coached by outstanding coaches, and I played with great teammates. I'm thankful to all of them, as well as to the support I got from the fans. I'm proud and happy to have been a part of the Trojan Family. I'll always be a Trojan. Now, I get to be part of the great tradition of USC alums in the NFL. I'm excited to see what's coming next for me."

Williams (6-foot-5, 310 pounds) has been projected by some to be a top five pick in the spring after terrorizing Pac-12 quarterbacks the past three years on his way to All-American honors. He recorded 80 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, and a team-high seven sacks in 2014 despite frequently being double-teamed by opponents. He can play defensive end and defensive tackle in various schemes and has excelled in his career in Los Angeles, totaling 21 sacks, despite playing with a torn labrum that was corrected just before this season started.

Some NFL scouts have even compared Williams to former all-pro Richard Seymour and think Williams is the "real deal" among this year's defensive linemen.

"We wish Leonard the best of luck. We know he will represent USC well in his professional career," USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said. "He was a great player here for all three of his years. Just like all of our players, Leonard is a Trojan for life and we will always support him."

The 2015 NFL Draft will take place in Chicago from April 30 to May 2, but Williams figures to showcase his skills at the NFL Scouting Combine first in February.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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