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USC FOOTBALL REPORT

Ruling Might Leave Williams in Limbo

March 31, 2004|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

USC is preparing to defend its national title without receiver Mike Williams, who took advantage of the Maurice Clarett ruling and made himself available for the NFL draft.

But the decision Tuesday by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals to schedule an expedited hearing of the league's appeal of Clarett's case raised the possibility, however remote, that Williams could petition the NCAA for reinstatement if the NFL ultimately prevails.

"The NCAA is changing its emphasis in some areas, so therefore, there might be a chance for him," to apply for reinstatement, said Tom Hansen, commissioner of the Pacific 10 Conference.

Asked whether he would welcome Williams' return if the 6-foot 5, 230-pound All-American wanted to come back -- and if the NCAA allowed him to -- Coach Pete Carroll said, "Let's just wait and see what happens. I don't even want to speculate about that right now."

Williams' departure from USC in late February came a few days after he made critical comments about teammates in the campus newspaper.

"Just reading the stuff in the paper, I don't think he left on the greatest terms," senior cornerback Ronald Nunn said. "But I think if he wanted to [return], everyone would greet him with open arms."

Senior defensive lineman Shaun Cody agreed.

"I talked with him a little bit, and he explained what happened with the situation," Cody said. "I'd love to have him back on the team, but I want things to work out for him in the NFL."

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Cody, an all-conference tackle last season, continues to work at end and said he expected to play the position next season.

Carroll said junior end Frostee Rucker would sit out the rest of spring practice because of a sprained toe ligament that is not expected to require surgery.

Carroll said he envisioned a starting defensive line that features Rucker, Cody, sophomore tackle Manuel Wright and senior tackle Mike Patterson.

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