USC defensive back Max Williams could miss season after tearing knee ligament

USC defensive back Max Williams (4) helps bring down UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
USC defensive back Max Williams (4) helps tackle UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson during the Trojans’ 43-38 victory Dec. 12 at the Rose Bowl.
(Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

A USC defensive backfield already dealing with depth issues has been dealt another blow.

Max Williams, a redshirt sophomore nickel back, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Tuesday during spring practice, presumably ending his 2021 season before it begins. His father, Maxzell Williams Sr., confirmed the diagnosis on Twitter.

“As a parent, one of the worse feelings in the world is when your child is hurting,” Williams Sr. tweeted. “We’ve been down this road b4 and back to the road to recovery.”


Williams suffered a season-ending ACL injury as a senior at Gardena Serra High. The injury lingered into the start of his USC career, but once it healed, Williams quickly emerged as an option in the Trojans’ secondary rotation.

Williams’ injury marks another setback for a USC secondary that was already running thin. Greg Johnson, who started at nickel back last season, is still dealing with a knee injury that will keep him out of spring. Starting cornerback Chris Steele hasn’t been available through the first week of spring for undisclosed reasons.

With Johnson out, Williams had an opportunity this spring to potentially earn the job. But midway through practice Tuesday at the Coliseum, the cornerback was helped off the field, unable to put any weight on his left leg. He sat out the rest of practice with ice on his knee, before being carted off.

From the play of Kedon Slovis to changes along the defensive front, here are five big questions USC will be looking to address in spring practice.

March 29, 2021

Williams played in all six games for USC in 2020, making three starts and registering 22 tackles.