After another dominating effort by USC defense’s last week, Leonard Williams stood on the field at the Coliseum and offered a key to the unit’s success.
“We have a great chemistry,” he said.
Williams, 6 feet 5 and 290 pounds, has been a main element for a group that ranks fourth nationally in total defense and sacks per game.
Just as he did last season when he recorded 13 1/2 tackles for losses and earned Freshman All American recognition, Williams has been a disruptive force for a defense that will try to neutralize Arizona State on Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium.
Williams is tied for second on the team with 19 tackles, including a team-best six for losses. He has two of the Trojans’ 16 sacks.
“I can’t imagine there are many guys like him around the country, at any age,” USC Coach Lane Kiffin said Wednesday. “He’s a dynamic, phenomenal player that totally changes the game.”
The “52" scheme that new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast installed shifted Williams and George Uko from tackle to end. Williams, Uko, nose tackle Antwaun Woods and linebackers Morgan Breslin and Devon Kennard have been relentless in pressuring quarterbacks.
“Leonard has made progress every week,” Pendergast said. “We felt like he had to get more consistent with his technique because the sky’s the limit with him and his athletic ability.”
Punter Kris Albarado was honored to be recognized as the Pac-12 Conference special teams player of the week, but he does not intend for it to be a lone career highlight.
Albarado, a third-year sophomore from Louisiana, said it was “awesome” and “cool” but added, “I want to come back and punt better.”
Against Utah State, Albarado placed five kicks inside the 20-yard line, including two inside the five.
Now he is preparing for his first test in a notably hostile environment at Arizona State.
“I like it, actually,” he said. “I want to be in an environment like that.”
Albarado, who came to USC on scholarship, is starting after sitting two seasons behind Kyle Negrete, a former walk-on who won the job in 2011.
Albarado said special teams coach John Baxter told him during his official visit to USC that “the best man is going to play.”
“We both came here during camp and he was the better guy my first year,” Albarado said of Negrete. “He rightfully deserved the spot.”
Now, Albarado is thriving. His 40.3-yard average belies his value in Baxter’s schemes.
The two-year wait, he said, helped him become a better student and a better player.
“It was a little rough — it wasn’t something that I was expecting,” he said of the wait, adding that Baxter’s strategy was “very different than what most people consider conventional punting.”
Offensive lineman Aundrey Walker no longer is wearing a protective boot on his right foot…. Tailback Silas Redd continues to condition his surgically repaired knee and is not expected to play against Arizona State.