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Trojans certainly know the type

Juice Williams might not be Vince Young, but the big question is, can they contain him?

December 25, 2007|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

Try asking USC defensive end Lawrence Jackson about Juice Williams and . . .

"Isiah," Jackson interrupts.

Isiah?

"I won't call him Juice," Jackson says flatly. "I don't buy into the hype. I just call him Isiah."

By any name, be it the legal one on Williams' birth certificate or the moniker his grandmother gave him upon his delivery, Illinois' dual-threat quarterback presents USC with a challenge that Coach Pete Carroll and his players know all too well.

Since Carroll's arrival at USC in 2001, several runner-passer threats have foiled the Trojans for part or all of a game.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, December 29, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
College football: A graphic in Tuesday's Sports section on how dual-threat quarterbacks fared against USC said Oregon's Dennis Dixon led the Ducks past the Trojans on Oct. 28. The game was Oct. 27.

Kansas State's Ell Roberson beat USC twice. Virginia Tech's Bryan Randall gave the Trojans fits early on. And Texas' Vince Young -- the ultimate He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named quarterback in Trojans lore -- was unstoppable in one of the greatest performances in college football history.

This season, Washington's Jake Locker nearly engineered a victory over the Trojans. Oregon's Dennis Dixon completed the task.

Enter Williams, a 6-foot-2, 223-pound sophomore who has rushed for nearly 800 yards and seven touchdowns and passed for nearly 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Williams was inconsistent at times during the Fighting Illini's 9-3 regular season, but he led his team to a season-ending four-game winning streak, including a victory over top-ranked Ohio State, and into the Rose Bowl against USC.

"He's more strong than he is fast or quick, but he has enough speed to hurt you," said Jackson, a fifth-year senior. "He can do all this wiggling. He has some special stuff to his game, but his strength and his power are the main things."

Like Dixon, who played off talented running back Jonathan Stewart, Williams also has a running mate in Rashard Mendenhall, the nation's eighth-leading rusher.

But Williams is the X-factor for the Illini. "The fact that the guy is a scrambler is predictable," Carroll said. "How and when becomes the issue."

Carroll has no trouble recalling quarterbacks cut from similar molds. Size and speed might have varied but the potential for creating havoc against the Trojans has remained consistent.

The elusive Roberson ran for 119 yards in Kansas State's 10-6 win at the Coliseum in 2001. The next season, he rushed for 70 and passed for 134 in a 27-20 victory at Manhattan, Kan.

"He was a great player and that was a great offense, one of the hardest offenses we ever defended," Carroll said. "They had so many plays, so much background and so many styles of things they did and we were so early [in Carroll's tenure]. We were young at the time."

Early in the 2004 season opener, Virginia Tech's Randall escaped the clutches of what was to become USC's best defense under Carroll.

Randall, however, amassed nearly all of his 82 rushing yards in the first quarter. He finished with 153 passing yards that day as the Trojans started their unbeaten season with a 24-13 victory.

"He had a good first quarter and didn't get anything after that," Carroll said. "We missed him a couple times while we were getting used to the tempo and speed of the game."

In the 2006 Bowl Championship Series title game, Young produced a game for the ages at the Rose Bowl. He passed for 267 yards and rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns, including the winner with 19 seconds to play.

"The best we ever saw by far," Carroll said, shaking his head. "And not just against us but in all of the film, against everybody. It looked like he was playing in a [television] commercial. Guys were falling all over the place and he was getting away from them."

Before USC played Washington this season, Carroll went out of his way to compare the 6-3, 225-pound Locker to Young.

The redshirt freshman ran for only 50 yards and misfired on numerous passes, but the potential for problems in coming years was obvious. "He's really fast and he's 225," Carroll said.

Dixon was lighter and more nimble at 204 pounds but he deftly ran Oregon's spread offense during a 24-17 victory at Eugene, Ore., rushing for 76 yards and a touchdown and coolly passing for 157 yards.

"He owned the game, particularly early," Carroll said. "He kept everything alive for them. He kept the ball moving."

On New Year's Day, Williams will try to do the same against a USC defense ranked second nationally. This season the Trojans have given up only 259 yards a game.

"They're just going to be looking at our Oregon film and our Washington film and look at our mistakes and work on it," USC linebacker Rey Maualuga said.

Jackson expects the experience gained from playing against the likes of Randall, Young and Dixon will help the Trojans contain Williams.

"It's kind of hard to peg them into the same hole, but preparing for them is similar because it's the 'what-if?' factor," he said. "What if they decide to run the ball or whatever. You just have to be ready for it."

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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Begin text of infobox

How four dual-threat quarterbacks have fared against USC:

ELL ROBERSON - Kansas State

* Rushed for 119 yards in 2001 and passed for 134 in 2002 in consecutive wins over Trojans.

BRYAN RANDALL - Virginia Tech

* Burned USC early in 2004 before finishing with 235 total yards in a 24-13 loss. -

VINCE YOUNG - Texas

* His 467-yard, three-touchdown effort secured the national title in 2006 Rose Bowl.

DENNIS DIXON - Oregon

* Rushed for 76 yards and passed for 157 on Oct. 28 to lead the Ducks to a 24-17 win.

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