LOS ANGELES -- The Trojans were back on Dedeaux Field on Wednesday morning, where they’ve been working out off and on throughout the season in an attempt to lessen the wear and tear on their primary practice home, Brian Kennedy/Howard Jones Field. Donning full pads, it was another high-energy session marked by intensity.
“Another long practice today, very hard and physical, which is good for us,” USC head coach Lane Kiffin said.
And while Kiffin was generally happy with the overall results, he did reveal that the practice didn’t come without some beginning hiccups.
“We came out here and didn’t start very well on offense,” he said.
“We got them back and finished strong,” Kiffin said.
Williams and the Florida pipeline
The performance of freshman defensive tackle Leonard Williams has been one of the surprises of the season, and a much welcomed one at that for a defensive line unit that was thought to be razor-thin in terms of depth entering fall camp.
Supplanting Antwaun Woods in the starting lineup for the second consecutive game last week -- a move that slides George Uko over to nose tackle while Williams mans the three-technique spot -- he came up with one of his most productive outings yet, racking up four tackles, 1.5 sacks and one fumble recovery against Washington.
But what Kiffin was most impressed with was the poise and consistency that Williams showed for a player less than six months removed from high school.
“He doesn’t get rattled,” Kiffin said. “You look at that game and they’re in a no-huddle at the end of that game, going down to score -- trying to make it a one-score game -- and just to be lining up right at that point is more than a lot of our guys can do, let alone make plays. And the energy that he played with -- the hit [on] their quarterback there at the end, you know the ball started to come free -- a huge hit that knocks the ball out -- so it’s just great to see. He’s just one of those rare guys that can come in as a true freshman and not just play, but make an impact.”
Williams, who hails from Daytona Beach, Fla., is just the latest in an ever-growing list of players who have decided to leave the Sunshine State to make a name for themselves on the West Coast at USC.
“I think it started years ago probably with Mike Williams coming here and having so much success,” Kiffin said. “He shattered all of the freshman records in the country for receiving at the time. For someone to do that -- to not go right down the road to Florida -- I think he was thinking [he wanted to] come out here and have an impact, and then it just kind of set up a run of these guys coming now, and Keith Rivers coming shortly after that.”
Shaw still in the mix
With both Torin Harris and Kevon Seymour out with unspecified injuries, Josh Shaw came in at the cornerback position opposite Nickell Robey against the Huskies and performed solidly, collecting the second interception of his USC career. On Wednesday, the Florida transfer continued to draw praise for his strong showing, with Kiffin specifically pointing out the role that Shaw’s experience played.
“Well, I think just to be able to go in there, being in the lineup after such a long time away, and he didn’t get flustered,” Kiffin said. “And a lot of that goes to his experience. We went with him over some other kids based on his experience. You know, playing at Florida, playing in big games -- even though he was playing at safety at the time. He did a great job.”
And while Shaw certainly helped his cause as he makes a bid for more playing time, the competition at cornerback continues this week with no decision having been made yet as to who will start. Harris and Seymour figure to be the other two primary options at the position.
“He’s in there with reps along with the other guys, and we’ll figure it out,” Kiffin said.
Tuerk back at tackle
Offensive tackle Max Tuerk caught everyone’s attention last weekend with his performance at a completely different position -- tight end. With Randall Telfer out, Kiffin felt the switch made sense for the true freshman considering USC lacked depth at the spot.
“It was with the inexperience at tight end,” Kiffin said. “Once Randall was going to be out most likely -- the other guys had not played very much -- we just really felt, especially versus that team, that we were going to need to run the ball. We didn’t want to get in a situation where we had young tight ends in there, especially versus a team that causes problems on the road. We moved him there, he did a great job even though he’s a true freshman -- it’s not an easy transition. He graded out really well.”
But don’t necessarily expect to see Tuerk line up at tight end against the Buffaloes. Kiffin noted that he’s back at left tackle this week, where he’s battling with Aundrey Walker for the starting role.
“I’d anticipate both guys playing,” Kiffin said.