Arkansas transfers earn notice

Times Staff Writer

After being relegated to USC’s scout team this season, quarterback Mitch Mustain and wide receiver Damian Williams were intent on leaving an impression in their final Rose Bowl workouts.

On Sunday, the Arkansas transfers put on a show, displaying the connection that made them a formidable duo in high school and during their freshman seasons in the Southeastern Conference.

Mustain directed several scoring drives, and Williams made spectacular catches during an 84-play situational scrimmage that marked the end of the Trojans’ second series of Rose Bowl practices.


“There’s a chemistry there; it was exciting to see how obvious it was,” Coach Pete Carroll said. “They’ve been playing together since they were little kids, and it showed today.”

Mustain completed 10 of 16 passes for 162 yards and three touchdowns, all against a third-team defense made of up mainly of walk-ons and redshirts.

Williams caught five passes for 58 yards and a touchdown.

As transfers, Mustain and Williams are not allowed to practice with the Trojans when school is not in session. USC players finish finals early this week and will not resume practice for the Rose Bowl until Thursday. The spring semester begins in January.

So Mustain and Williams wanted to leave the coaching staff with something to remember them by.

“Today was a perfect shot for us, and I think we really capitalized on it,” said Mustain, who started eight games at Arkansas in 2006.

Williams agreed.

“He knows where I’m going to be, and I know where he’s going to throw it,” Williams said. “That’s always good when you go into a situation that’s kind of strange to you.”

Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said the coaching staff planned to supply Mustain and Williams with ample opportunities in an attempt to cull film for review before spring practice begins in March.

Mustain is expected to battle Mark Sanchez for the starting job, but he has some catching up to do. As the scout-team quarterback during the regular season, Mustain mainly ran the offense of the Trojans’ opponents and rarely got the opportunity to direct USC’s attack.

Sarkisian said Mustain is still missing some of the “intricacies” of USC’s offense, but was impressed by the play of both transfers Sunday.

“It’s great for their confidence and knowing that they can compete, and great for our confidence in them, knowing that we have a couple guys that are going to come in and compete for jobs in spring football,” Sarkisian said.


John David Booty completed two of seven passes for 36 yards, and Sanchez connected on nine of 12 for 54 yards in the scrimmage. . . . Sophomore tailback Allen Bradford rushed for 41 yards in seven carries. Freshman Marc Tyler rushed for 78 yards in seven carries against the third-team defense. . . . Kicker David Buehler missed a 28-yard field-goal attempt but converted from 50 yards. . . . Wide receiver Patrick Turner did not participate in the scrimmage because of a leg bruise he said he suffered Saturday. . . . USC will stay at a beachfront hotel in Santa Monica and practice at the Home Depot Center on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. . . . A mural honoring the late Mario Danelo will be unveiled today at San Pedro High at 10 a.m. Carroll is scheduled to attend the ceremony.