LOS ANGELES --- USC defensive line coach Ed Orgeron has made a name for himself as an ace recruiter. However, he's not going to take credit for luring freshman defensive tackle Leonard Williams to Los Angeles from Daytona Beach, Fla.
That honor goes to defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. The architect of the famed Tampa 2 defense, Kiffin, is a legend in Buccaneers country. He made a return to his old stomping grounds and made a huge impact.
"You bring Monte to the Tampa area or Orlando --everybody remembers his days at Tampa--does a tremendous job," Orgeron said. "Monte went to the school and really captured all the coaches. (He) won the coaches over. The last night (Williams) was committed to Florida and we was on the phone until about midnight, 1 o'clock and he changed his mind because of the connections that Monte made plus Leonard came to camp and that helped."
It's a good thing for the Trojans the elder Kiffin said the right things at the right time.
Williams has been a huge surprise for USC defensively. His impact in such a short time wasn't expected but he was a player they knew they were going to need to contribute right away. The 6'5" 285-pounder entered USC as a defensive end. Depth concerns at defensive tackle prompted a move inside and it's worked wonders for the Trojans through the first half of the season.
Williams has been an impact player for the USC defense on the defensive line that entered the season, by and large, high on questions and low on experience. He is second on the team with 5.5 sacks through his first six career games, while forcing himself into the starting lineup.
The coaching staff applauds his ability to make adjustments throughout the course of a game. Orgeron says his length makes him hard to block for opposing offensive linemen.
USC head coach Lane Kiffin has raved about his new defensive tackle being similar to "what you see in the SEC every week."
"If you study the draft, in general, that's where they come from. They come from the south," Kiffin said. "Big, physical, strong. He's here as a true freshman and he's making a huge impact. He played his best game last week (at Washington).
"(He) continues to improve and at times was dominating on the road as a true freshman. That says a lot."
Sure, there have been plenty of learning lessons for Williams in his first season of college football, at a new position no less. However, it's been mostly on the job training. He's learning how to go up against two guys on each play, something he rarely saw as a defensive end. Williams says he's even started to like facing the double teams. Last week at Washington he split a double team to get to Huskies quarterback Keith Price to help force a fumble with the Huskies on the USC four-yard line.
"We'll see how he enjoys the double team coming up," Orgeron laughs, "later on down the road."
Williams gives Orgeron an abundance of credit for the success he's had thus far.
"I came in with confidence only because Coach O was telling that they were going to need me right away, but at the same time, I didn't expect to be this great this soon," Williams said. "I really think it's all Coach O because I think he's a real good coach and if I didn't have him I wouldn't be as productive as I am right now."
Said Orgeron, "(He's) really a pleasant, pleasant young man to coach. He's got a pleasant attitude. I think the game comes easy for him. He's working hard but it's not like it's a chore every day. He loves it.
The Cajun drawl of Orgeron didn't take long to adjust to for Williams.
"Everytime I hear (his) voice, I just snap my head." Williams said.
Orgeron is quick to throw out a disclaimer that the "meat" of the Trojans schedule is still to come, meaning more competition for his young tackle and for USC fans to not get too excited.
"We're going to come up against better opponents," Orgeron said. "Some of the offensive lines we (faced), no offense to them, have been injury prone, they put in new freshmen and stuff like that, so we haven't come against our best opponents yet."
So far, Williams has passed his mid-terms.