Advertisement

USC's Leonard Williams is one for UCLA to watch

Brett Hundley won't be the only player who requires individual and group attention in the 84th annual football game between USC and UCLA.

The Bruins quarterback must know the whereabouts of Trojans defensive lineman Leonard Williams.

Advertisement

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Williams is expected to be an All-American selection and possibly the top pick in the next NFL draft.

“He’s a great player because he’s so disruptive,” UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. “He’s explosive. He can play the run. He can rush the passer.

"I don't know if he's top 10, top 5, or a top pick, but he's in that discussion."

Three weeks ago, Williams accidentally ended the college career of Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday when he fell on his leg while wrapping him up in the backfield.

So UCLA's offensive line, which has surrendered 31 sacks, would like to keep Williams away from Hundley.

“The important thing for us is to go out and do our job and not worry about one individual player,” UCLA tackle Caleb Benenoch said. “We’re five guys and he’s one guy.”

Williams has 8 1/2 tackles for losses, including six sacks.

He is the Trojans’ second-leading tackler and has forced three fumbles and intercepted a pass.

But Williams' value extends well beyond statistics.

“Leonard is about as good as I’ve ever seen engaging in blocks and playing both gaps on either side of him,” USC Coach Steve Sarkisian said. “And, depending on where the ball goes, being able to shed that block and make that play or force the runner laterally so the linebackers can make the play.”

Early this season, Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy keyed on Williams and then made read-option decisions based on his movements. Murphy ran for 191 yards and a touchdown in 13 carries to lead the Eagles to a 37-31 upset victory.

Williams said this week that he was prepared for a similar approach by UCLA.

In 2012, Williams had 10 tackles, including a sack, in a 38-28 loss to the Bruins at the Rose Bowl.

Last season, Williams had seven tackles in a 35-14 loss at the Coliseum.

Advertisement

Benenoch, who was ejected from last season's game for striking a Trojans player, said the Bruins would be ready to contend with Williams on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

"We just have to weather the storm," he said, "and keep doing our job."

Staff writer Chris Foster contributed to this article.

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter: @latimesklein

Advertisement
Advertisement