USC Makes First-Ever Visit To Kansas State In Battle Of Top 25 Teams
Sept. 15, 2002
USC (2-0 overall) vs. Kansas State (3-0), Saturday, Sept. 21, 6 p.m. CDT/4 p.m. PDT, KSU Stadium, Manhattan, Kan.
USC looks to go 3-0 in 2002 as it remains on the road this week to play at Kansas State, also a Top 25 team looking to stay unbeaten. It's Troy's second straight road game against a Big 12 foe (the Trojans steamrolled Colorado last week) and its second straight road game versus a ranked team (the last time USC won back-to-back on the road against ranked foes was 1986). USC will be making its first-ever visit to the state of Kansas. KSU Stadium is a difficult place to play, as the Wildcats in the midst of a 4-game home stand have won their last 37 non-conference home games and their last 35 September home games. Kansas State has outpointed its 3 foes this season, 179-16, so it's no wonder the Wildcats lead the nation in scoring offense and are second in scoring defense. However, the Trojans boast similarly impressive stats: first nationally in total defense and sixth in scoring defense, for instance. USC will try to avenge last season's close loss to the Wildcats, the first-ever meeting between the schools. The game will showcase two of the nation's premier defensive backs: USC All-American S Troy Polamalu and Kansas State CB Terence Newman, both 2002 Thorpe Award candidates. Trojan QB Carson Palmer, who has hit 70%-plus of his throws in both game this year, is on the verge of setting some more USC records. KSU coach Bill Snyder once was an assistant coach at USC. The game will be televised live nationally on TBS Superstation cable.
USC is ranked 11th by AP and USA Today/ESPN. Kansas State is 23rd by USA Today/ESPN and 25th by AP.
The 2001 meeting between USC and Kansas State was the first-ever between the teams as the No. 12 Wildcats beat Troy, 10-6, in the Coliseum. It was the fewest points scored by KSU in an opener since being shut out in 1989 (coach Bill Snyder's first season there) and it was USC's fewest points in a game since being blanked at Washington in 1997. The win was Snyder's 100th and marked the first loss for new Trojan head coach Pete Carroll. USC fell behind 10-0 in the first half following a 41-yard field goal by PK Jared Brite on KSU's opening series and then a Wildcat touchdown midway through the second quarter when OG Nick Leckey fell on TB Josh Scobey's fumble in the end zone. But the Trojans rallied in the second half, as TB Sultan McCullough ran for a 7-yard score midway through the third period just 4 plays after DT Bernard Riley recovered a KSU fumble (however, PK David Davis' conversion kick was blocked; he also came up short on a second quarter 42-yard field goal). USC threatened late in the game, driving to the Wildcat 24-yard line before QB Carson Palmer fumbled the ball away on a scramble. Overall, Kansas State had more total yards (366-297), first downs (20-13) and possession time (35:27-24:33). KSU got 340 of its yards rushing, the most against USC since California had 389 in 1991. However, the Trojans held the Wildcats to just 26 passing yards, the fewest by a USC opponent since Oregon State had no yards in 1993. Scobey had a game-best and career-high 165 rushing yards on 27 carries and QB Ell Roberson added a career-best 119 yards on 21 tries, the first time a pair of opposing players rushed for 100 yards in a game against Troy since 1993. For USC, Palmer had a team-best and career-high 60 yards on 12 carries (the most rushing yards by a Trojan quarterback since Reggie Perry's 60 versus Memphis State in 1991) and hit 16-of-36 passes for 197 yards, while WR Kareem Kelly had 7 catches for 75 yards (both game bests) and FB Charlie Landrigan caught 5 passes for 58 yards (both career highs). Trojan S Troy Polamalu had a game-high 13 tackles (2.5 for losses) and forced a fumble, Riley added 10 stops and S Antuan Simmons intercepted a pass. Both teams were penalized 10 times and both teams penetrated the opponent's 30-yard line just 3 times.
Tickets for the USC-Kansas State game, priced at $45, are available at the USC Ticket Office (213-740-GO SC).
VERSUS BIG 12
USC is 26-6-2 against Big 12 opponents and has won 7 of the last 8 such meetings (most recently beating Colorado last week, 40-3). On the other hand, Kansas State is 4-14-1 against the Pac-10, winning its last 2 meetings (over USC in 2001 and Washington in 1999) to break a 4-game Pac-10 losing skid.
USC's game at Kansas State marks the Trojans' first-ever visit to the state of Kansas. It will be the 33rd different state in which USC has played (Troy has also played in Japan).
USC is 13-7-1 in its last 21 games on artificial turf.
REGULAR SEASON WINS
USC has won its last 6 regular season games (the Trojans lost to Utah in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl).
BACK-TO-BACK ROAD WINS
If USC wins at No. 25 Kansas State after winning at No. 18 Colorado last week, it would mark the first time the Trojans have registered road wins in consecutive weeks since 1994 (over Oregon State and Stanford) and the first back-to-back road victories over ranked opponents since 1986 (over No. 19 Stanford and No. 14 Arizona). USC won 2 road games in a row last year (Arizona and California), but those wins sandwiched a home victory over Oregon State.
THREE ROAD WINS
USC has won its last 3 road games (non-neutral sites) for the first time since winning at Oregon State, Illinois and Houston in 1995 and 1996. The last time USC won 4 straight games in opponents' stadiums was in 1990 and 1991 (Troy actually won 7 consecutive road contests then).
Kansas State has 10 Californians on its roster, but USC has no Kansas natives...In its history, USC has had 14 letterman hail from Kansas, including FB Mark Farlin (1994 and 1996) from Manhattan...Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder was a graduate assistant coach for John McKay at USC in 1966, when the Trojans went 7-4. He then spent the next 2 seasons (1967-68) as the head coach at Indio (Calif.) High (he was an assistant there in 1964 and 1965) and then 5 years (1969-73) as the head coach at Foothill High in Santa Ana (Calif.)...USC athletic director Mike Garrett played for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1966 through 1970, appearing in Super Bowls I and IV...USC walk-on LB Matt Newhouse celebrates his 19th birthday on Saturday (Sept. 21).
NEW USC JERSEYS
In its first major uniform change in 30 years, USC will wear jerseys in 2002 with a style that harkens back to the heyday era of the 1960s. The new jerseys are similar to those worn by Trojan teams from 1958 to 1969 (when Troy won 2 national titles and played in 5 Rose Bowls under coach John McKay). The jerseys feature a single crescent stripe on each shoulder pad and numbers on the sleeve (all stripes and numbers are sewn in). There also is an interlocking 'SC' logo on the bottom of the neckline. Per tradition, there will be no names on the back of the jersey. The last time USC underwent a uniform change of this magnitude was in 1972, when the jerseys worn up until last season (3 stripes on each sleeve) were first introduced. (In 1970 and 1971, USC's jerseys had no markings except for the front and back numeral.)
S Troy Polamalu (for the second consecutive year) and QB Carson Palmer have been selected by their teammates as season captains. Each game, they will join captains representing the special teams and the service (scout) team.
USC, as usual, is playing one of the nation's most difficult 12-game schedules. Sports Illustrated lists Troy's slate as the nation's toughest. Seven opponents played in bowls last season and 5 were ranked in the final AP Top 20 (3 were in the Top 10). The Trojans opened up 2002 on Labor Day evening against Auburn; the other non-conference games include early road contests at 2001 Colorado and Kansas State and the regular season finale at home with Notre Dame. In Pac-10 games, USC hosts Washington, Arizona State, Oregon State and California, and goes to Oregon, Washington State, Stanford and UCLA.
No. 17 USC used a suffocating defense and a balanced offense to overwhelm No. 18 Colorado, 40-3, before a soldout crowd of 53,119 in Boulder and a regional ABC-TV audience. It was Colorado's worst loss since 1992 and its worst home loss since 1983. It also was USC's first win over a ranked opponent on the road (non-neutral site) since 1995 and kept Troy's record perfect against the Buffaloes in 5 tries. The Trojan defense totally stifled Colorado, limiting CU to just 61 total yards (the fewest allowed by USC since Oregon State had 43 in 1952), including only 24 passing (USC's fewest allowed since Oregon State had 0 yards in 1993), and 4 first downs (the least allowed by USC since Colorado had 4 in 1963). The Trojans, coming off a bye, countered with 425 total yards (181 rushing) and 22 first downs. USC ran off 72 plays to CU's 48 (averaging 5.9 per play to CU's 1.3), had 3 scoring drives of 80 yards, forced 10 punts, posted 4 sacks, let the Buffaloes convert just 1-of-14 third downs (none in the second half) and held the ball 34:26. Troy led 20-0 at halftime. On fourth-and-7 on USC's first possession, TB Malaefou MacKenzie caught a pass from QB Carson Palmer and broke through several Buffaloes for a 32-yard touchdown. Late in the first quarter, MacKenzie bulled his way for a 14-yard score, again breaking several tackles. Then, late in the half, TB Sultan McCullough raced a career-long 62 yards for a TD. After Colorado got on the board with a 42-yard field goal by PK Patrick Brougham late in the third quarter, USC answered on its next series when Palmer scored on a 1-yard sneak. After Colorado's ensuing drive stalled, CB Forrest Mozart blocked P Mark Mariscal's punt and S Mike Ross recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. Then, after DE LaJuan Ramsey returned a CU fumble (forced by LB Oscar Lua) 19 yards late in the game, TB Darryl Poston ran for a 4-yard TD to close out the scoring. Palmer hit 73.3% of his passes (22-of-30) for 244 yards, including connecting on his first 6 throws in the game and all 8 in the second half. McCullough ran for a game-best 110 yards on 15 carries, his 10th career 100-yard outing, MacKenzie added 35 yards on 10 tries (and caught 2 passes for 38 yards), and WR Mike Williams had a game-high 7 catches for 90 yards. S Troy Polamalu had a team-high 11 tackles, LB Melvin Simmons added 9 stops and DT Mike Patterson had 2 sacks among his 5 tackles. USC, however, struggled on special teams: P Tom Malone averaged 51.2 yards on 4 punts, but had a punt blocked, while PK David Davis had a field goal and PAT blocked (and missed another PAT), and WR Kareem Kelly fumbled away a punt. For Colorado, TB Chris Brown had 44 yards on 14 carries, QB Robert Hodge (who started for an injured Craig Ochs) was just 1-of-9 passing for 20 yards and Mariscal averaged 57.4 yards on 8 punts.
USC has never beaten a team from Kansas. The Trojans lost at home to Kansas, 26-20, in 1983, then fell to Kansas State at home, 10-6, in 2001.
Pete Carroll brought big doses of experience, enthusiasm and leadership in his quest to revive the USC football program when he was named the Trojans' head football coach on Dec. 15, 2000 (he signed a 5-year contract). After Troy started off his opening 2001 season slowly at 1-4, Carroll stayed the course and got his troops to rally by winning 5 of their last 7 games (including the final 4 regular season contests) to finish at 6-6 overall. USC, which won its last 5 Pac-10 games after beginning league play at 0-3, placed fifth in the conference at 5-3 and earned a berth into the Sega Sports Las Vegas Bowl. Putting an exclamation point on the regular season was a 27-0 blanking of No. 20 UCLA, USC's first shutout in the crosstown rivalry since 1947 and the series' biggest margin of victory since 1979. The 51-year-old Carroll has 27 years of NFL and college experience, including 11 on the college level. He is 8-6 as a college head coach. He was the head coach of the NFL's New England Patriots for 3 seasons (1997-99) and New York Jets for 1 year (1994). He guided the Patriots into the playoffs in his first 2 seasons, winning the AFC Eastern Division title at 10-6 in 1997 and advancing to the second round of the playoffs, then posting a 9-7 regular season mark in 1998. His overall record in New England was 27-21 in the regular season (including 8-8 in 1999) and 1-2 in the playoffs. He owns the franchise's second-best winning percentage (54.9%). After serving as the Jets' defensive coordinator for 4 seasons (1990-93), he became the team's head coach the following season. His 1994 Jets went 6-10. Only 3 other Jets head coaches won more games in their rookie campaign. He spent the next 2 years (1995-96) as the defensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers, who won the NFC Western Division title both seasons. The 49ers were 11-5 in the 1995 regular season when they had the NFL's top-ranked defense and then went 12-4 in 1996. Carroll began his coaching career at the college level, serving as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Pacific, for 3 years (1974-76), working with the wide receivers and secondary. He then spent a season each as an assistant in charge of the secondary at Arkansas (1977) under Lou Holtz as the Razorbacks won the 1978 Orange Bowl, at Iowa State (1978) under Earle Bruce (the Cyclones played in the 1978 Hall of Fame Bowl) and at Ohio State (1979) under Bruce. That Buckeye squad lost to USC in the 1980 Rose Bowl. He next spent 3 seasons (1980-82) as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at North Carolina State, then returned to Pacific in 1983 as the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. He entered the NFL in 1984 as the defensive backs coach of the Buffalo Bills, then held a similar position with the Minnesota Vikings for 5 seasons (1985-89). The Vikings advanced to the playoffs his last 3 years there, getting to the NFC Championship game in 1987. The 1988 team was 11-5 in the regular season and the 1989 squad won the NFC Central Division crown with a 10-6 mark. His secondary averaged 25 interceptions a season and led the NFL in passing defense in 1989. Carroll spent the 2000 season as a consultant for pro and college teams, doing charitable work for the NFL and writing a column about pro football for CNNSI.com. Carroll was a 2-time (1971-72) All-Pacific Coast Conference free safety at Pacific and earned his bachelor's degree in 1973 in business administration. He received his secondary teaching credential and a master's degree in physical education from Pacific in 1976. He was a 3-sport (football, basketball and baseball) standout at Redwood High in Larkspur, Calif., earning the school's Athlete of the Year award as a senior. He played quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back. He then played football at Marin Junior College in Kentfield, Calif., in 1970. He was born on Sept. 15, 1951 in San Francisco. He and his wife, Glena, who played volleyball at Pacific, have 3 children: sons Brennan, 22, who played tight end at Pittsburgh (he previously played at Delaware) and is now an assistant at USC, and Nathan, 14, and daughter Jaime, 19, a junior at USC who played on the Women of Troy's highly-ranked volleyball team which competed in the 2000 NCAA Final Four. His late father-in-law, Dean Goranson, received his master's degree from USC.
Senior Troy Polamalu (18 tac, 1 for loss in 2002), a 2-year starting strong safety, is a leading candidate for the Thorpe Award in 2002 after last fall becoming USC's first All-American first team safety since Thorpe recipient Mark Carrier in 1989. A 2002 pre-season All-American, he is on the 'Watch List' for the 2002 Walter Camp Award, Thorpe Award and Bronko Nagurski Award. Sports Illustrated named him as 1 of 5 'Terminators' in college football in 2002, a player 'boasting an otherworldly combination of speed, strength and athleticism...who can single-handedly kill off drives and wreak havoc on game plans.' His jersey currently is on display at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., in the 'Race for the Pantheon' exhibit that highlights the nation's 10 leading candidates for post-season individual honors. He will play in the 2003 East-West Shrine Game. Polamalu, who twice won Pac-10 Player of the Week honors in 2001, made big plays in seemingly every game last season. Last year, he had 118 tackles (13 for losses, with a sack), 6 deflections, 3 interceptions (2 for TDs), 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and 3 blocked punts. His 118 tackles topped USC and were tied for second in the Pac-10. His tackle totals were game highs 7 times, including a Las Vegas Bowl record 20 against Utah. In his career, he has run back 3 of his 5 picks for scores and blocked 4 punts.
'Troy Polamalu is one of the best players I've ever coached,' said USC head coach Pete Carroll, who has tutored such star defensive backs as Ronnie Lott, Tim McDonald, Aaron Glenn, Merton Hanks, Eric Davis and Lawyer Milloy. 'He is a tremendous football player and it shows in every phase of the game: pass defense, run defense, blitzing and special teams. Pound for pound, he is our strongest player (600 pounds in the squat and 353 pounds in the power clean) and he has been a star in our off-season conditioning program. He is a team player, as shown by his desire and performance on special teams. He is also a humble, dedicated team leader who is respected greatly by his teammates, as evidenced by the rare feat of being voted a team captain as just a junior last year. I can't imagine a better safety in college football in 2002.'
Senior quarterback Carson Palmer (45-of-63, 71.4%, 546 yds, 2 TD, 2 int in 2002, plus 7 tcb, -9 yds, -1.3 avg, 2 TD) is one of the nation's marquee signalcallers. He is on the 2002 Davey O'Brien Award and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award 'Watch Lists.' He currently is 17th nationally in passing efficiency (150.7, fourth in Pac-10) and 18th in total offense (268.5, fourth in Pac-10). A 3-year starter, he is second on USC's career passing (663 completions) and total offense (8,338 yards; he is eighth on the Pac-10 chart) lists. Soon, he should move up to No. 1 in both USC categories (he needs 14 completions to break Rob Johnson's mark and 303 yards of total offense to eclipse Rodney Peete's standard) and he is on pace to also break Johnson's school career mark for passing yards (he has 8,422 and needs 51; he is eighth on the Pac-10 chart). He owns the USC career record for pass attempts (1,142). His 41 career TD tosses are third most at USC (tied for 30th in the Pac-10). He also has the second most career rushing/passing plays at USC (1,354), within 18 of breaking Peete's mark. With 34 career starts, he has completed at least 60.0% of his passes 17 times (including 8 contests at 70.0%-plus) and had thrown for 300-plus yards in 5 games. Last fall, he was 221-of-377 (58.6%) for 2,717 yards with 13 TDs and 12 interceptions. His 58.6% completion rate in 2001 topped the Pac-10 and his 419 yards of total offense at Oregon was a USC record (his 411 passing yards in that game were 4 shy of tying another school mark). He will play in the 2003 East-West Shrine Game.
--He completed 23-of-32 passes (71.9%) for 302 yards with 1 TD and 2 interceptions against Auburn (he had 3 drops) and also scored the game-winning TD on a 1-yard sneak with 1:26 to play to earn Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week honors. He was 11-of-13 in the second half and completed passes to 8 different receivers in the game.
--He hit 22-of-30 passes (73.3%) for 244 yards with 1 TD at Colorado and also scored a TD on a 1-yard sneak. He hit his first 6 passes in the game and then was 8-of-8 in the second half. His completions went to 7 different receivers.
Three relatively untested youngsters are behind Carson Palmer at quarterback: sophomore Matt Cassel (0-of-1, 00.0%, 0 yards in 2002), who completed 1-of-2 passes for 5 yards and also played some as a tight end-in-motion (he had a 12-yard catch in 2001) and on special teams (1 tackle in 2001) last season, and redshirt freshmen Matt Leinart and Billy Hart, who is also a reserve infielder for the Trojan baseball team. Cassel and Leinart (his only career action was 2 snaps at the end of the 2002 Colorado game) are battling for the No. 2 job (Cassel was slowed in fall camp after suffering a bone chip in his knee). Junior Brandon Hance, who started Purdue's first 9 games of 2001 and completed 136-of-258 passes (52.7%) for 1,529 yards with 8 TDs (he also ran for 242 yards and 4 scores), enrolled this fall, but he must sit out the 2002 season per the NCAA transfer rule.
--At Colorado, Cassel was 0-of-1 while directing 2 late drives (including 1 for a score), while Leinart took the game's final 2 snaps, but didn't throw a pass.
Last year demonstrated why it is critical to have depth in the tailback corps. Injuries decimated USC's runners in 2001 and by midseason a fullback was starting at tailback. It's no wonder the Trojans averaged just 87.7 rushing yards a game last fall. USC is 5-deep at tailback in 2002, including 3 experienced seniors. Senior Justin Fargas (1 tcb, 4 yds, 4.0 avg in 2002), who was impressive while serving as USC's scout team tailback in 2001 and had an eye-opening performance in 2002 spring drills (139 and 111 rushing yards in 2 intrasquad scrimmages), will look to make a sudden impact this season. He sat out the 2001 campaign after transferring from Michigan, where he had 362 rushing yards in an injury-plagued career. Speedy senior Sultan McCullough (35 tcb, 168 yds, 4.8 avg, 2 TD in 2002, plus 1 rec, 10.0 avg and 1 KOR, 20.0 avg) returns after starting Troy's first 6 games of 2001. But he was sidelined the rest of that year with a strained abdominal muscle that required surgery and finished with 410 yards on 115 carries (3.6 avg) with 5 TDs. He ran for 1,163 yards in 2000 and is 11th on USC's prestigious career rushing ladder (2,154 yards). He has rushed for 100 yards 10 times in his career. The 1999 Pac-10 100-meter champion, he is the fastest player ever to wear a Trojan football uniform (10.17). Senior Malaefou MacKenzie (20 tcb, 68 yds, 3.4 avg, 1 TD in 2002, plus 8 rec, 19.4 avg), who has 833 rushing yards and 45 receptions in his Trojan career (he has started 6 times), gained a sixth year of eligibility in 2002 from the NCAA. He was expected to team with McCullough to give Troy a 1-2 punch at the tailback position in 2001. But he left school at midseason last fall without seeing any action and returned home to Western Samoa (he missed 4 early games with a knee sprain and a fifth to attend his father's funeral). Sophomore Darryl Poston (4 tcb, -2 yds, -0.5 avg, 1 TD in 2002) showed brief flashes last fall, but was bothered by a mid-year knee sprain. He, too, looked good in 2002 spring practice. Prep All-American Hershel Dennis (5 tcb, 32 yds, 6.4 avg in 2002, plus 1 rec. 4.0 avg) joined the tailback fray this fall as a freshman.
--MacKenzie, in his first game since 2000, started against Auburn and had a game-best 6 catches for 117 yards (the first 100-yard receiving game by a USC running back since Mike Garrett had 122 yards against California in 1964) as well as running for 33 yards on 10 tries, while McCullough led USC with 58 rushing yards on 20 carries (he also caught a 10-yard pass and returned a kickoff 20 yards) and Poston had 1 carry for 2 yards (Fargas was sidelined with a hamstring strain and Dennis was used on kickoff returns, but did not touch the ball).
--At Colorado, McCullough had a game-high 110 yards on 15 carries (his 10th career 100-yard outing), including a career-long 62-yard run for a TD, while MacKenzie broke several tackles while scoring on a 32-yard pass and a 14-yard run (he rushed for 35 yards on 10 carries and caught 2 passes for 38 yards overall), Poston scored on a 4-yard run, Dennis ran for 32 yards on 5 tries and caught a 4-yard pass, and Fargas saw his first action as a Trojan (he had a 4-yard run).
SENIOR TAILBACK TRIO
Few teams in the country can boast of having a trio of senior tailbacks of USC's quality. The combined career stats of Sultan McCullough, Malaefou MacKenzie and Justin Fargas: 752 carries, 3,343 yards, 4.5 average per carry, 23 TDs, 23 starts, 12 100-yard games...oh, and seven surgeries!
Senior Sunny Byrd (2 rec, 7.5 avg in 2002) enjoyed folk hero status in 2001 when he took over for Sultan McCullough at tailback and provided some hard-nosed running. He had never touched the ball at USC before then, but he started USC's last 6 contests and led the Trojans in rushing 5 times (he had at least 20 carries in 6 outings). Overall last fall, he ran for 336 yards on 123 carries (2.7 avg) with 4 TDs, plus had 11 catches (7.4 avg) and made 5 tackles. He is back at fullback in 2002 and is competing with another senior, Chad Pierson (1 rec, 2,0 avg in 2002), for the starting job. Pierson, who started once in 2000 and proved to be just as effective a runner and receiver as a blocker, missed the first half of 2001 with a back injury (he ran for just 11 yards, but did catch a TD). Also in the mix at fullback to replace Charlie Landrigan, a 3-year starter known for his leadership, rugged blocking and good hands (49 career receptions), are freshman Brandon Hancock (2 tcb, 9 yd, 4.5 avg in 2002, plus 1 rec, 3.0 avg and 1 tac), who enrolled at USC this past spring after earning prep All-American honors, and redshirt freshman David Kirtman.
--Byrd started against Auburn and caught 2 passes for 15 yards, while Hancock had a 1-yard run, a 3-yard catch and a tackle (Pierson was sidelined by a hamstring strain).
--Pierson caught a 2-yard pass at Colorado and Hancock had an 8-yard run.
Swift senior Kareem Kelly (10 rec, 10.2 avg, 1 TD in 2002, plus 6 PR, 5.2 avg), a 4-year starter, is tied for second on Troy's career pass catching list (168 receptions; he is tied for 10th on the Pac-10 chart). He is within range of Johnnie Morton's school records for receptions (201) and receiving yards (3,201; he has 2,601, which is 12th on the Pac-10 chart). He has a catch in all 37 games he has played as a Trojan, tying John Jackson's USC mark (the Pac-10 record is 42). He is on the 'Watch List' for the 2002 Biletnikoff Award. He has had 100-yard receiving games 9 times in his career. In 2001, he had 49 catches (16.3 avg) with 3 TDs, plus ran 6 reverses for a 6.3 average. He also sprints and runs relays for the USC track team.
--He caught a game-best 6 passes for 66 yards with a TD against Auburn and also returned 2 punts for 0 yards.
--He had 4 catches for 36 yards at Colorado and returned 4 punts for 31 yards.
OTHER WIDE RECEIVERS
Like last year, USC's wide receivers are a deep and talented group with starters returning at both spots. Besides Kareem Kelly, junior Keary Colbert (6 rec, 12.5 avg in 2002) returns at the other wideout spot. The consistent 2-year starter has 71 career grabs to put him tied for 23rd on USC's career reception chart, including 34 (13.0 avg) in 2001 with 2 TDs. Two other Trojans started a game in 2001: senior Grant Mattos (1 rec. 12.0 avg in 2002), who missed part of last season with a knee sprain but had 10 catches for a 10.4 average, and junior D. Hale, a one-time walk-on who earned a scholarship this past spring after getting 7 catches (15.1 avg) in 2001. Also looking to break into the rotation are junior Jason Mitchell, a 2001 junior college All-American who enrolled at USC this past spring, and 2 freshmen who came aboard this fall: prep All-Americans Mike Williams (11 rec, 13.3 avg in 2002) and Chris McFoy.
--Against Auburn, Williams made his Trojan debut by catching 4 passes for 56 yards off the bench, Colbert started and had 2 grabs for 23 yards and Mattos had a 12-yard reception.
--Williams had a game-high 7 grabs for 90 yards at Colorado, while Colbert added 4 catches for 52 yards.
For the second consecutive year, USC is starting a new tight end, this time in place of Kori Dickerson, the one-time linebacker who had 25 catches and 2 scores last fall. Junior Alex Holmes is the most experienced tight end on the roster, as he has seen significant action the past 2 seasons as the backup. He has 29 career catches with 2 touchdowns, including 22 grabs (7.5 avg) with 2 TDs in 2001. Also available are sophomore Gregg Guenther Jr. (3 rec, 7.3 avg in 2002), who at 6-8 also was a reserve center on the 2002 Trojan men's basketball team that advanced to the NCAA tourney, and senior Scott Huber, who played some at fullback in 2001. Dominique Byrd, a prep All-American who also has worked at defensive end, enrolled in the fall as a freshman.
--No tight end caught a pass against Auburn.
--Guenther caught 3 passes for 22 yards at Colorado.
USC's offensive line from a year agosave for 2-year starting guard-tackle Faaesea Mailocomes back. But this groupwhich has seen some early-season experimentation on the right sideneeds to improve its performance if the Trojan offense is to click. Senior guard Zach Wilson has started the past 3 years on the right side and has been solid, but a foot injury slowed him the first 2 games. Starting junior tackles Jacob Rogers (left side) and Eric Torres (right side) started for the first time in 2001 and did commendable jobs (Torres also is being used at right guard). Steady junior Lenny Vandermade started at center the past 2 years, but was moved to left guard in 2002 spring practice and starts there in 2002 (he started 5 times there in 2000). And junior Norm Katnik, the line's utility man after having started at all 3 positions in 2001 (5 times at guard, 4 at center and once at tackle), handles the starting center job in 2002. Veterans angling for backup duty are senior Phillip Eaves at tackle, sophomore Travis Watkins at guard and senior Derek Graf at center. Freshmen help arrived this fall with a quartet of prep All-Americans--tackles Winston Justice and Kyle Williams, guard Fred Matua, and center-guard Chris Doyleplus guard Kurt Katnik, Norm's younger brother.
--In the Auburn opener, Rogers and Torres started at the tackle spots, Vandermade was at left guard, Norm Katnik was at center and Graf saw his first appreciable career action when he started for Wilson (ankle sprain) at right guard (Matua also saw time there).
--At Colorado, Rogers (left tackle), Vandermade (left guard) and Norm Katnik (center) started at their usual spots, while Torres moved inside to right guard for the injured Wilson and Winston Justice celebrated his 18th birthday by starting at right tackle (becoming the first true freshman to start on the offensive line since OG Travis Claridge and OT Faaesea Mailo did so in 1996 against Notre Dame).
Although half of last year's 4-man defensive front2-year starting end Lonnie Ford (81 tackles, 30 for a loss, 16 sacks in his career) and 3-year starting tackle Ryan Nielsen (107 career tackles)is gone, USC is still in good shape here in 2002. Two of the nation's top young defensive linemen return as sophomore starters: tackle-end Shaun Cody (4 tac in 2002), who was a Freshman All-American first team pick last season, and end Kenechi Udeze (7 tac, 5 for loss, 1.5 sack in 2002), a Freshman All-American second teamer last year. Both are destined for big things at USC; in fact, both are on the 2002 Lombardi Award 'Watch List.' Cody had 39 tackles (7 for losses, with 5 sacks) and a fumble recovery in 2001, while Udeze added 35 stops (9 for losses, with 4 sacks, plus a fumble recovery, 3 forced fumbles and a deflection). Senior tackle Bernard Riley (3 tac in 2002), who started Troy's first 5 games of 2001 before injuring his knee (he also started in 2000), also is back. He had 26 tackles (5 for losses, with a sack, plus a fumble recovery and interception last year. However, sophomore Mike Patterson (13 tac, 3.5 for loss, 2.5 sack in 2002) starts at Riley's tackle spot. Senior Anthony Daye (2 tac in 2002), who can also play end, and junior Nate Steinbacher, a converted offensive tackle, also are available at tackle. The other end spot is being manned by junior Omar Nazel (4 tac, 1 int in 2002), backed up by junior Chris Prosser, who has 5 career starts (including 3 last year, when he made 20 tackles) at strongside linebacker, and senior Doyal Butler, a converted tight end...or by a newcomer. Joining USC this fall were a pair of junior college All-Americansends Daniel Urquhart, who is a junior, and sophomore Van Brown (1 tac in 2002)plus freshmen ends LaJuan Ramsey (1 FR in 2002) and Travis Tofi.
--Patterson, in his first career start, had a team-high 8 tackles (1.5 for loss) versus Auburn, while Nazelalso making his first starthad 6 stops and intercepted a pass (to set up a USC touchdown), 3 of Udeze 5 tackles were for losses, and Cody had 2 stops and Daye added 1 tackle.
--At Colorado, Patterson had 5 tackles (including 2 sacks), Cody and Nazel each added 4 stops, Riley had 3, Udeze had a tackle for a loss, Brown and Daye each had a tackle and Ramsey returned a fumble 19 yards to set up a USC TD.
The linebacking corps, an area of concern last year because of 3 new starters, has become a position of strength for USC in 2002. Two starters return from 2001: reliable senior Mike Pollard (7 tac, 1 for loss, 1 FF, 1 FC in 2002) in the middle and versatile sophomore Matt Grootegoed (6 tac in 2002) on the strong side. Pollard was second on the Trojans in tackles (81, including 8 for losses) and first in deflections (7) last fall, and added a fumble recovery and 2 forced fumbles. Grootegoed broke his leg near the end of last season, but posted 32 tackles (8 for losses, with a sack), plus a fumble recovery and 2 deflections. Junior Melvin Simmons (14 tac, 1.5 for loss, 1 sack in 2002) sat out last season after transferring from Washington State, where he was a starter in 2000, but he has emerged as the weakside replacement for Frank Strong, who had 82 tackles and 2 interceptions in his career (he also was a safety, tailback and returner at USC). There is plenty of quality depth behind these linebackers. Senior Aaron Graham has started 5 times in the middle in his career (he had 11 tackles in 2001), but will work as a backup on the weak side in 2002. Sophomores Lee Webb in the middle and Bobby Otani (4 tac in 2002) on the weak side saw measurable action last fall, although Otani suffered a midseason knee injury. Two prep All-AmericansOscar Lua (2 tac, 1 sack, 1 FF in 2002) and Dallas Sartz (1 tac in 2002)joined this group this fall as freshmen. Sophomore Lofa Tatupu (from Maine) and redshirt freshman Frostee Rucker (Colorado State) both must sit out the 2002 season after transferring in this fall.
--Simmons had 5 stops (1.5 for loss, with a sack) against Auburn in his Trojan debut, while Pollard and Grootegoed each added 3 tackles (Pollard also forced a fumble, which he recovered to set up a USC TD) and Lua had 1 stop.
--At Colorado, Simmons had 9 tackles, Pollard had 4 stops (including 2 for losses, with a sack), Otani also had 4 tackles, Grootegoed had 3, and Lua and Sartz each had a stop (Lua's was a sack, forcing a fumble which USC recovered).
At first glance, the secondary appeared to be an area of worry for USC in 2002, considering that 3 top-quality starters departed. Gone are 4-year starting safety-cornerback Antuan Simmons (208 tackles, 9 interceptions, 6 blocked kicks in his career), who beat a life-threatening illness in 2000 and had an impressive 2001 season (he'll long be remembered for his amazing between-the-legs interception for a TD versus UCLA), and cornerbacks Kris Richard (125 tackles, 8 picks as a 3-year starter) and Chris Cash (86 tackles, 4 interceptions as a 2-year starter), both who were NFL draft picks. But things are not as dire as they appear, especially not when the Trojans return perhaps the nation's best safety in previously-mentioned senior All-American strong safety Troy Polamalu. Add a collection of experienced players alongside Polamalu and, if the cornerback positions are solidified, USC's secondary could be as effective as it was last season (defensive backs accounted for 15 of the Trojans' 20 interceptions and 6 of the defense's 8 touchdowns; USC was 16th nationally in pass defense). The cornerback spot did take a huge hit when senior Kevin Arbet (25 tackles, 3 for losses, 2 sacks, 6 deflections, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery in 2001), a 4-time career starter who won All-Pac-10 first team laurels last year as a special teams player and who returned 1 of his 3 picks for a TD, was lost for the 2002 season after breaking a bone in his foot during fall camp. So, the new cornerbacks will be chosen from senior Darrell Rideaux (5 tac in 2002), who has 6 career starts, junior Marcell Allmond, a converted wide receiver who redshirted last fall while suspended from USC for a student conduct violation (he has 30 career catches while starting 6 times on offense, but he last played defense as a 1998 high school senior), redshirt freshman William Buchanon (1 tac in 2002), another converted wide receiver, or a newcomer: junior college All-American Ronald Nunn (1 tac in 2002), who is a junior, or prep All-American Justin Wyatt (3 tac in 2002), who is a freshman. Rideaux (sprints, relays) and Allmond (hurdles) also compete for the USC track team. Senior DeShaun Hill (6 tac, 1 FF, 1 dfl in 2002) won the starting free safety job, as he started 8 games earlier in his career (he had 42 tackles, 2 interceptions, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble in 2001). Other safeties include junior Sandy Fletcher, a converted wide receiver, sophomore Jason Leach (4 tac, 1 int, 1 dfl in 2002), redshirt freshman John Walker (he also might play cornerback), and first-year freshman Mike Ross (1 tac, 1 TD on a blocked punt recovery).
--Against Auburn, Rideaux had 5 tackles as a starter, Leach and Hill had 4 each (Hill also forced a fumble and deflected a pass), and Wyatt and Nunn (making his first start at Troy) both had 1.
--Hill and Wyatt had 2 tackles at Colorado, Buchanon had 11, Leach had an interception and Ross recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a TD.
Senior David Davis (1-of-2 field goals, 7-of-9 PATs in 2002), 16-of-20 on field goals and 38-of-43 on PATs in his USC career, had an impressive showing in 2001 after transferring from a junior college. The lefty was the Pac-10's most accurate field goal kicker last fall (83.3%) and was tied for 18th nationally in field goals (1.3). He hit 12 field goals in a row at one point. Overall in 2001, he nailed 15-of-18 field goals and 31-of-34 PATs. He even ran for a short TD on a fake field goal. He is on the 2002 Lou Groza Award 'Watch List.' However, there's a new kickoff man to replace David Newbury, who compensated for a lack of leg strength by pooching his kickoffs (which resulted in 14 fair catches). Those short kickoffs accounted for USC's creditable kickoff coverage average of 20.2 yards in 2001 (second best in the Pac-10), although only 1 of Newbury's 62 kickoffs was a touchback and just 7 pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line. Sophomore Ryan Killeen, a junior college fall transfer, has won the job. USC's punter the past 4 seasonsMike MacGillivray, who set school career records for punts (298) and punt yardage (11,700) while owning a 39.3-yard averagehas graduated. The Trojans are hoping his replacement will be more consistent: freshman Tom Malone (47.3 avg in 2002, tops in the Pac-10), who enrolled at USC this past spring after earning prep All-American honors. He showed a strong leg in 2002 spring practice. Both of USC's snappersjunior center Joe Boskovich, who hikes on placekicks, and junior linebacker Matt Hayward, who snaps on puntsare back after doing flawless work last fall. There's a new holderMalonenow that MacGillivray, who handled the job last year, is gone. USC's top punt returnersenior cornerback Kevin Arbet (25 punt returns, 9.0 average in 2001, plus 3 kickoff returns, 17.7 average)is sidelined in 2002 with a foot injury, but last year's top kickoff returnersenior cornerback Darrell Rideaux (19 kickoff returns, 19.1 average in 2001)is back. However, it appears punts will be handled by senior wide receiver Kareem Kelly (6 PR, 5.2 avg in 2002), while the kickoff return duties are manned by senior tailback Sultan McCullough (1 KOR, 20.0 avg in 2002), a senior, and freshman Hershel Dennis.
--Against Auburn, Davis hit his only field goal try (a 37-yarder) and all 3 PATs, Malone averaged 42.0 yards on 3 punts in his Trojan debut (including a 50-yarder) and Killeen had 2 of his 5 kickoffs pin the Tigers within the 20-yard line.
--Malone averaged 51.2 yards on his 4 punts at Colorado (including a 60-yarder), but had a punt blocked, while Davis had a field goal and PAT blocked (another PAT missed) while hitting 4-of-6 PATs and Killen had 5 of his 7 kickoffs hold the Buffaloes within the 20 (with 4 touchbacks).
STATISTICS OF NOTE
NEWCOMERS SEE ACTION
Eighteen new Trojans have seen action for the Trojans in 2002: 12 first-year freshmen (WR Mike Williams, P Tom Malone, CB Justin Wyatt, TB Hershel Dennis, FB Brandon Hancock, S Mike Ross, LB Dallas Sartz, LB Oscar Lua, OG Fred Matua, TE Dominique Byrd, OT Winston Justice and DE LaJuan Ramsey), 4 junior college transfers (PK Ryan Killeen, WR Jason Mitchell, CB Ronald Nunn and DE Van Brown) and 2 college transfers (LB Melvin Simmons and TB Justin Fargas). Also, 6 walk-ons have played: WR Greig Carlson, DE Jay Bottom, SNP Joe Boskovich, DT Spencer Torgan, CB Forrest Mozart and S Greg Farr). Fourteen newcomers and 3 walk-ons saw action in the Auburn opener.
NEW ASSISTANT COACHES
There are two new full-time assistant coaches in 2002: Greg Burns, who handles the secondary, and Tim Davis, who is in charge of the offensive line (guards and centers). Burns, a one-time Washington State defensive back spent the past 4 years at Louisville after a year at Idaho. Davis was at Wisconsin the last 5 years after a 7-year stint at Utah. Also, Brennan Carroll (head coach Pete Carroll's son who was a tight end at Pittsburgh the last 3 years), joined the staff as a graduate assistant working with the offense and special teams. Several returning assistant coaches have different responsibilities in 2002. Steve Sarkisian, who was the offensive graduate assistant in 2001, now works fulltime as the quarterbacks coach. Kennedy Pola, last year's special teams coordinator, added the duty of running backs coach. Lane Kiffin switched from tight ends to wide receivers coach. Keith Uperesa, last year's offensive line coach, now is in charge of offensive tackles and tight ends. And offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who also was USC's quarterbacks coach in 2001, just handles the coordinator duties in 2002.
IN THE NFL
USC is always well-represented in the NFL. At the start of training camp this summer, there were 39 ex-Trojans on NFL rosters. Last year, there were 26 Trojans on opening day NFL rosters, including players such as LBs Junior Seau and Chris Claiborne, OL Tony Boselli, DL Willie McGinest, WRs Keyshawn Johnson, Johnnie Morton and Curtis Conway, QB Rob Johnson and DBs Jason Sehorn, Sammy Knight, Rashard Cook and Daylon McCutcheon. Five NFL head coaches have USC ties (either as former players or assistants): New York Giants' Jim Fassel, Tennessee's Jeff Fisher, Seattle's Mike Holmgren, San Francisco's Steve Mariucci and Miami's Dave Wannstedt. Ten current USC players have relatives with NFL playing backgrounds: DE Van Brown (brother, Chad Brown), CB-WR William Buchanon (father, Willie Buchanon), WR Kareem Kelly (cousin, Rashard Cook), OG-DT Fred Matua (cousin, Manu Tuiasosopo), S Kyle Matthews (grandfather, Clay Sr.; father, Clay Matthews; uncle, Bruce Matthews), TB Sultan McCullough (brother, Saladin McCullough), S Troy Polamalu (cousin, Nicky Sualua), LB Lofa Tatupu (father, Mosi Tatupu), OG Travis Watkins (uncle, Tom Watkins) and OT Kyle Williams (uncle, Eric Williams; grandfather, Roy Williams). Additionally, head coach Pete Carroll was an NFL head coach and assistant coach, and assistant Lane Kiffin was an NFL assistant. Four assistant coaches played professionally: Keith Uperesa in the NFL, Norm Chow, Steve Sarkisian and Tim Davis in the CFL (Davis also played in the USFL).
USC is one of America's most televised teams. The Trojans have appeared on live national, regional or local telecasts 296 times, including 163 of the past 165 games. In fact, USC had an amazing streak of 111 consecutive games on some form of live television from 1988 to 1997 (snapped against Oregon State) and another streak of 48 in a row from 1997 to 2001 (broken against California).
PAC-10'S 25TH ANNIVERSARY
The 2002 season marks the 25th year of the Pacific-10 Conference as Arizona and Arizona State joined the league prior to the 1978 football season. USC became a member in 1922 when the league was called the Pacific Coast Conference (it later was called the Athletic Association of Western Universities, the Pacific-8 Conference and now the Pac-10).
There are a number of updates from the roster in the 2002 USC football media guide:
USC IS THE PLACE TO BE
Based on several national accolades it has received recently, USC can stake its claim as one of the nation's premier schools. USC was named the 'College of the Year' by the 2000 edition of the Time/Princeton Review College Guide because of the remarkable bonds it has forged with the local community. The editors said USC has one of the most ambitious social-outreach programs of any university in the nation and cited the school's model of service learning (applying academic theory to real-life situations through public service). They also pointed out that USC's undergraduate applications have nearly doubled over the last few years and it is enrolling the most academically accomplished freshman classes in its history. Troy also was selected as one of America's nine 'hottest schools' by the 2001 edition of the Newsweek/Kaplan College Guide because it lives up to its reputation as a top-notch institution of higher education. Students quoted in the guide said that what attracted them to the university was Los Angeles' ethnic diversity, the offer of scholarships, the small classroom sizes and USC's standing in academe. Also in 2001, the Association of American Colleges and Universities picked USC as one of 16 'Leadership Institutions' for providing stimulating educational experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. USC was cited for emphasizing a campus culture featuring new learning techniques, curriculum and organizational structure and for demonstrating a strong commitment to liberal arts education relevant to the contemporary world. The organization said USC not only linked liberal arts and pre-professional study, but offered students the opportunity to learn by doing through off-campus work in community projects and internships. Also, USC was lauded for stressing critical thinking, effective communication and contributing to a diverse society.
Two of USC's most recent graduation rates for football were the highest in USC history. The 2001 official NCAA graduation rate for Trojan football players was 82%, an all-time high (topping the previous USC high of 80% in 2000). That rate compared to 73% for the general USC student body...and it was about 30 percentage points higher than the national football average for Division I schools. Among the top scholars on the 2002 Trojan squad are: FB Brandon Hancock (team-high 3.81 GPA, business), S Andre Woodert (3.43), QB Billy Hart (3.35, business), LB-SNP Matt Hayward (3.29, business), QB Matt Cassel (3.23, communication), P Tom Malone (3.2, kineseology), DT Spencer Torgan (3.04, business), LB Melvin Simmons (3.01, social sciences/history), TE Scott Huber (2.97, communication), FB David Kirtman (2.92, business), C-SNP Joe Boskovich (2.87, business), OT Justin Brown (2.82, business) and DE Jay Bottom (2.78). Huber was a 1999 and 2000 Pac-10 All-Academic honorable mention choice. In its history, USC football has produced 22 Academic All-American first teamers (tops in the Pac-10 and sixth in the nation), 20 NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship winners, 12 National Football Foundation Scholar-Athletes, 4 NCAA Today's Top Six winners, 1 Rhodes Scholar and 1 Academic All-American Hall of Famer.
SCOUTING KANSAS STATE
Kansas State, under 14th-year head coach Bill Snyder, is off to a 3-0 start (home wins versus Western Kentucky, 48-3, Louisiana-Monroe, 68-0, and Eastern Illinois, 63-13, last Saturday). The Wildcats have won 35 straight September home games and 37 consecutive non-conference home contests. Just 10 starters (only 3 on offense) return from last year's team that went 6-6 (ending a streak of 8 straight winning seasons) and fell to Syracuse in the Insight.com Bowl (it was KSU's ninth straight bowl appearance). KSU has posted some imposing statistics: it leads the nation in scoring offense (59.7), is second in scoring defense (5.3), sixth in total defense (222.3), eighth in pass efficiency defense (77.4), 14th in rushing offense (242.7) and 22nd in rushing defense (93.3). A pair of quarterbacks guides the Wildcat offense: senior Marc Dunn (15-of-20, 75.0%, 278 yds, 5 TD in 2002) and junior Ell Roberson (7-of-12, 58.3%, 1 TD in 2002, plus 13 tcb, 92 yds, 7.1 avg, 1 TD). Sophomore RB Darren Sproles (37 tcb, 270 yds, 7,3 avg, 2 TD in 2002, plus 3 rec, 6.0 avg and 6 PR, 13.5 avg) is the team's leading rusher (he ran for 135 yards in the Western Kentucky opener), while WRs Taco Wallace (7 rec, 24.7 avg, 2 TD in 2002), a senior, and junior Derrick Evans (7 rec, 17.7 avg in 2002) are the top pass catchers. Senior CB Terence Newman (13 tac, 2 for loss, 2 int in 2002, plus 6 PR, 20.3 avg, 1 TD and 3 KOR, 43.7 avg, 1 TD) highlights the defense, along with junior LBs Josh Buhl (30 tac, 1 FR in 2002) and Terry Pierce (21 tac, 2.5 for loss, 1 sack in 2002).
OUT: CB Kevin Arbet (foot), WR D. Hale (ankle), OG-OT Joe McGuire (shoulder), DE-DT A.J. Single (shoulder), QB Nick Vanderboom (knee)
POSSIBLE: LB Aaron Graham (hip), TE Scott Huber (hip)
PROBABLE: OG Zach Wilson (foot), TB Justin Fargas (hamstring), OG Fred Matua (knee), LB-DE Chris Prosser (concussion)
6-5, 210, Freshman
Mike Williams is rare in many ways.
He's rare because of his size. At 6-5 and 210 pounds, he is not your typical USC receiver.
He's rare because of his smooth routes and sticky hands that have him currently leading the Trojans with 11 receptions so far this season.
He's rare because he is one of only four players ever from the state of Florida to letter at USC.
Most of all, he's rare because he is doing all this as a true freshman.
And USC is lucky to have him.
Williams went to high school at Plant High in Tampa, not too far from where another big Trojan receiver--Keyshawn Johnson--earns his keep for the NFL's Buccaneers. So he was pretty familiar with the USC receiver tradition.
'When I first told my high school coach that I was considering USC, that was the first thing he mentioned,' said Williams, who caught 38 passes for 789 yards as an All-American senior. 'I knew that USC had a lot of success in the past and that a lot of players still go to the NFL.'
Williams was wanted by the Florida schools, but not as a wide receiver. The Gators wanted him to be a tight end, while Miami saw him as a strong safety. Their loss was USC's gain, since Williams saw himself solely as a wide out.
'I've always been a big guy,' said Williams. 'I grew up playing quarterback in Pop Warner football. Once I got to high school, big receivers were a big deal. They were taking college and the NFL by storm. That's when I made the transition to receiver and decided that that's what I wanted to do.'
Williams was also a pretty solid basketball player in high school. He averaged nearly 17 points and eight rebounds per game as a senior and helped lead his team to the state semifinals as a junior. Part of what sold USC coach Pete Carroll on Williams was seeing the athleticism he displayed while on the basketball court.
'I guess basketball skills translate well to playing receiver,' said Williams. 'Coach Carroll talks about how being a basketball player shows how you can get off the ground well. I can't help but use that to my advantage as far as timing and going for jump balls.'
From 1880 until 2001, only two USC lettermen came from Florida. In 2002, the Trojans suddenly have two who already have earned a letter. Besides Williams, freshman safety Mike Ross from St. Petersburg has seen some action as well (he recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown at Colorado).
'Back home, he was from right across the bay from me,' said Williams. 'Anyone from the the Tampa-St. Pete area will tell you that sports teams from those two areas don't like to co-exist. But I knew who he was and knew he was a good player. I didn't get in contact with him until I had already signed with USC, then we finally met for the first time.'
Both Williams and Ross give USC a little taste of the style of football played in the Sunshine State.
'There's different kinds of football everywhere,' said Williams. 'In Florida, I know there is a lot of speed at every position. Some states just have speed at receiver or at running back. But back home there seems to be speed all across the board. The players also have a reputation for being talkers.
'When you come this far, you want to represent where you are from. I think it is good for people back home to see me on the other side of the country doing what I'm doing.'
As far away as Williams was from USC, the Trojans had a unique connection to him. His high school quarterback's sister is married to USC receivers coach Lane Kiffin.
'That was a strange coincidence,' said Williams. 'When I found that out, the recruiting process was just beginning. As coach Kiffin kept calling, we reached a good comfort level.'
Williams is starting to look real comfortable just two games into his college career. He caught the first pass thrown to a Trojan wide receiver this season on USC's first series against Auburn. He finished that game with four catches for 56 yards. Against Colorado, he added a game-high seven receptions for 90 yards. Though he is on pace to have a very nice rookie season, he is not letting success get to his head just yet.
'My first games were decent,' said Williams. 'There are a lot of things I need to work on. It was a good experience, though.'
The more good experiences he has, the better Mike Williams--and USC--is going to get.
By Chris Huston, Assistant Sports Information Director