Containing Juice Williams Is A Key For Trojans In Rose Bowl

Williams is the type of quarterback who's given USC problems in recent years

Dec. 28, 2007

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) - Juice Williams isn't close to being in Vince Young's league.

So said two members of the Southern California defense, although they clearly meant no disrespect to the Illinois quarterback.

Even Williams wouldn't dispute that notion.

"No comparison at all," USC defensive end Lawrence Jackson said Friday, recalling Young's incredible performance in the Rose Bowl two years ago, when the Texas star ran and passed the Longhorns to a 41-38 victory over the Trojans to win the national championship.

"He's no Vince Young," Trojans cornerback Terrell Thomas said.

Williams threw four touchdown passes in No. 13 Illinois' stunning 28-21 victory at then-No. 1 Ohio State on Nov. 10. He also ran for three first downs as the Illini kept the ball for the final 8:09.

If the sixth-ranked Trojans are to beat Illinois in the Rose Bowl on Tuesday, they know they've got to contain Williams, the type of quarterback who's given them problems in recent years.

Young's Rose Bowl performance was unforgettable - 467 total yards with three rushing touchdowns - and Washington's Jake Locker and Oregon's Dennis Dixon hurt the Trojans this year with their running and passing.

"Vince Young has some special stuff to him," Jackson said. "On film, we felt confident we could stop Vince. He had the `it' factor. He was able to get out like Superman."

Regarding Williams, Jackson said: "He makes all the throws. He knows where to get the ball. There's kind of a gray area - you don't know how fast a guy is until you get out on the field."

Thomas also praised Williams, but didn't hesitate when asked about a similarity to Young.

"He was a supreme being in college football," Thomas said. "(Williams) isn't there yet. Juice is a good quarterback, the potential's there. That's like saying (Illinois running back Rashard) Mendenhall is no Reggie Bush."



Mendenhall was an All-Big Ten first-team performer this season. But the development of Williams as a sophomore was probably a bigger reason why the Illini (9-3) turned their program around after five straight losing seasons.

USC defensive coordinator Nick Holt said Williams reminded him of Locker because of his physical nature.

"It's almost like they're playing 12 guys, the quarterback's another running back," Holt said. "He's a physical runner, like Locker. He can run over you. He might not run 70 yards for a touchdown. I don't think he's as fast as Vince Young."

Holt said he believes the current USC defense is much better equipped to deal with an explosive offense than the 2005 version was against Texas.

"We were banged up two years ago," he said. "I don't think there's a comparison with this defense. We're fast and physical and I think that we surprise people because they have the stigma of the West Coast that there's more offense than defense."

In winning their final four games, the Trojans (10-2) outscored the opposition 116-51. USC wound up second in total defense (258.8-yard average) and fourth in scoring defense (15.9-point average).

"This defense has been playing lights out," USC nose tackle Sedrick Ellis said. "This defense has been spectacular against the run as well as the pass. It is going to be a good challenge, to stop this offense. I think it's going to be hard for them as well."

Williams said USC's defense was similar to Ohio State's in terms of team speed. The top-ranked Buckeyes, who face LSU in the national championship game, were ranked the country's top team in total defense.

Williams said he watched the Texas-USC game of two years ago the day before the Illini flew west to begin preparations for their first Rose Bowl in 24 years.

"They fell behind. (Young) led his troops down the field," Williams said. "That's something I want to do on Tuesday. I was watching it to pick up some things. I was just trying to see what he saw on film. I saw some things he did. It's very hard to stop a mobile quarterback who knows what he's doing."

Regarding a comparison to Young, Williams smiled and said: "Six-foot-5 - I can't do that. Great speed. ... His shoes are hard to fill."

Jackson, always engaging with the media, has added an element of interest by referring to Williams as Isiah even though he doesn't know him.

"I'm not a big fan of nicknames. His Mom named him Isiah, I call him Isiah," Jackson said. "Juice Williams, that's a cool name. I can't see myself calling him Juice."

Williams smiled upon hearing that news.

"I've been called Juice for a while," he said. "I have no preference. I'm just happy to be here for the Rose Bowl. I'm not here for the trash talk. I'm here to have fun and play ball."

However, he added: "We met (the Trojans) at Disneyland. They welcomed us. They've actually been pretty nice. They have been very humble. They're not the arrogant guys you think they were. They're a great team. I'm looking forward to a good game."