- John Clayton, NFL senior writer
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Southern Cal defensive tackle Manuel Wright announced Wednesday he is leaving school and will apply to enter the NFL through a supplemental draft.
Wright, a 6-foot-6, 300-pound junior, played two seasons as a backup on a Trojan defensive line that had a first- and second-round defensive tackle. Mike Patterson went to the Eagles in the first round; Shaun Cody went to the Lions in the second round. Despite their presence, Wright saw his playing time increase each season.
"It was a tough decision," Wright said. "I woke up this morning and made the decision. Coach [Pete] Carroll called me and wished me good luck. My line coach said the same thing. I was kind of nervous about everything, but I felt like I made the right decision."
Wright hired Lamont Smith and Peter Schaffer as his agents.
The NFL holds a supplemental draft in early July for players who aren't able to go in the regular April draft but became eligible before the start of the NFL regular season. It's a draft in which a three-step, weighted lottery determines the pick. Teams with six wins or less are placed together for the initial selection order, followed by another group of non-playoff teams and lastly the playoff teams.
Wright was considered one of the better defensive tackle prospects if he stayed in school and is expected to go for a 2006 draft choice between the third and fourth rounds.
He is expected to draw the interest of any team, no matter their base alignment. He can play an end in the 3-4, and in the 4-3, he's a "three technique," the Warren Sapp role of creating havoc along the line of scrimmage.
"I think I could go early second or maybe the first," Wright said. "This is the first time in my life that I can just concentrate on football."
Wright plans to move to Denver to train for his pro workout, which should occur a week to 10 days before the supplemental draft.
A 2001 Super Prep All-American, Wright signed with USC in 2002 but didn't have the grades for admission. He went to Long Beach City College in 2002 and didn't play football. Wright had eight tackles with two for losses in 2003 for Southern Cal. Last year, his playing time increased and he finished with 23 tackles, six for losses.
Wright was carrying a 14-credit class load that he needed to complete to stay eligible for the fall at USC. Once he gets settled in the NFL, he plans to continue to take classes to please his family and get a college degree.
John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com