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USC glad it went south to land Leonard Williams

Freshman defensive tackle from Florida had four tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in a start against Washington for a Trojans line whose next chore is to stop Colorado.

October 18, 2012|By Gary Klein, Los Angeles Times
  • USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams knocks down Washington quarterback Keith Price in the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday.
USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams knocks down Washington quarterback… (Elaine Thompson / Associated…)

Defensive tackle Leonard Williams did not decide to leave his home state of Florida and come to USC until the night before national signing day in February.

"I just talked to a lot of coaches that night," Williams said Wednesday, "and … I just felt like I wanted to be here."

USC is glad that he did.

The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Williams, from Daytona Beach, Fla., is the third freshman in three years to come from the Southeast and start for the Trojans. Cornerback Nickell Robey arrived from Florida in 2010, middle linebacker Lamar Dawson from Kentucky last season.

Senior safety Jawanza Starling also is from Florida.

Last week at Washington, in his second start, Williams had four tackles, including 1 1/2 sacks, and recovered a fumble.

Coach Lane Kiffin said this week that Williams was "what they line up with down in the [Southeastern Conference]."

"Study the [NFL] draft," Kiffin said Wednesday. "In general, that's where they come from, the South."

Saturday's game could be another confidence-building showcase for Williams, who has 51/2 sacks, and a Trojans defensive line that has exceeded most expectations.

Colorado, 1-5 overall and 1-2 in the Pac-12, has given up a national-worst 4.5 sacks per game.

Buffaloes opponents have tackled the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage 27 times. Only California, which has given up 29 sacks in seven games, has allowed more. The Golden Bears gave up nine against USC.

Though linemen have recorded 21 of USC's 22 sacks, defensive line coach Ed Orgeron is not ready to proclaim this group Wild Bunch III.

"Some of the offensive lines — no offense to them — have been injury-prone," Orgeron said. "They put in new freshmen. So we haven't come up against our best opponents yet."

The Trojans' defensive line will be tested against Arizona, Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame, but probably not against Colorado, a 40-point underdog.

Stripes are back

Kiffin has said for weeks that the Trojans would fix their penalty problems, but flags have continued to be thrown at an alarming rate.

USC enters Saturday's game as the most penalized team in major-college football, averaging 10 a game.

On Wednesday, Kiffin summoned help.

For the first time since training camp, game officials in full referee gear worked practice, a USC athletic department spokesman confirmed. The officials were still there when the workout ended and players were made available for media interviews.

Officials culled from the high school and college ranks were a regular presence at USC practices during Pete Carroll's tenure and Kiffin's first season.

The exercise enabled the Trojans to practice in game-like conditions and afforded officials an opportunity to sharpen their skills.

The Trojans' move to morning workouts ended the practice because most officials hold day jobs and have work conflicts that make coordinating full crews difficult, the athletic department spokesman said.

Two weeks ago at Utah, USC was penalized 14 times for 100 yards. The Trojans were penalized 10 times for 70 yards last week against Washington in Seattle.

Quick hits

Cornerback Kevon Seymour, who played against Washington but left the game because of an undisclosed injury, dressed for practice but left after 30 minutes…. USC is 6-0 against Colorado.

gary.klein@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesklein

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