Energetic Donte Williams Now In Charge Back Home

Donte Williams hopes to reintroduce rejuvenated USC football in Coliseum debut

Thuc Nhi Nguyen (LA Times)  —  The day was always a highlight of the year. Getting free tickets to a USC game at the Coliseum was like a dream for Donte Williams and his Pop Warner teammates. Once a year, for one game, the kids playing for youth teams in Baldwin Hills cheered from the stands as the Trojans solidified their place in the city’s heart.

Decades later, Williams’ vantage point has changed drastically, but he is still getting free tickets.

The interim coach who went to high school less than eight miles from the Coliseum has secured 24 tickets for family and friends to watch him on the sideline during his home head coaching debut against Oregon State at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. It’s a feel-good, full-circle moment for the Los Angeles native, but more important, it’s an opportunity for the hometown coach to reintroduce fans to a re-energized version of the program that’s fallen from its powerhouse perch.

“The last time we [were] at home didn’t go so well,” Williams said Thursday. “So it’s about going out there and showing our fans and showing our community just who we really are.”

USC fans booed the Trojans (2-1) off the field after a 42-28 loss to Stanford at the Coliseum. The embarrassing scene resulted in the firing of former coach Clay Helton.

Williams rallied the team for an emphatic victory at Washington State last week in which USC scored 45 consecutive points behind backup quarterback Jaxson Dart. Dart ignited a quarterback controversy by throwing for 391 yards, the most by a Trojan player making his debut, but limped off the field and will be sidelined indefinitely after knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

Junior quarterback Kedon Slovis practiced fully this week, showing no ill effects of the neck injury that necessitated Dart’s sudden rise or worries about possibly losing his job.

The simmering quarterback competition is yet another complication in USC’s young season, but the Trojans are trying to establish accountability and consistency in a program that’s been short on both for years. It all begins with their new head coach.

“One day, one thing is really big to me and then the next it’s not such a big deal, then that’s the same with the players: they’ll be inconsistent,” Williams said. “I have to be the same person every day.”

Williams is “one of the hardest-working coaches I know,” cornerback Chris Steele (8) said. The junior saw Williams’ impact up close last year when the assistant coach focused on cornerbacks and the pass defense. Even with Williams taking over as head coach, limiting his practice interactions with his cornerbacks, he still pops his head into meeting rooms to check on his position group.

The cornerbacks became like Williams’ immediate family, said Steele, who has had a long relationship with the coach that goes back to the high school recruiting trail, but he’s happy the family is growing under Williams.

“The type of person he is, the type of energy he brings, it’s only right that the team gets to have Donte Williams for them as well,” said Steele, who starred at Bellflower St. John Bosco.

While naming the interim coach, athletic director Mike Bohn lauded Williams for his relationship-building skills, but the 39-year-old doesn’t do it by always being a fun uncle to players. He also appears as the disciplinarian father who prohibited hats and hoodies from meeting rooms and roped off the interlocking “SC” logo at the center of the locker room to ensure players don’t step on the symbol.

The small gestures seem inconsequential, but players say they add up to the larger vision of rehabilitating USC’s tarnished reputation.

“You’re at the University of Southern California, this is one of the greatest institutions in the world,” said safety Micah Croom, a La Mirada High alumnus who transferred to USC from Dartmouth. “Remember that it’s a blessing and an honor to be here.”

From watching in the stands to now coaching on the sideline, Williams recognizes the significance of the program. He admitted his head coaching debut in the Coliseum is personally meaningful after his own history but emphasized that the game means more to the team. It’s Williams’ own relationship to the program that makes players believe in his vision for the future.

“He truly does care because this is his hometown,” Steele said. “He’s trying to restore it back to how it used to be.”

yahoo.com

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Steveg
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September 25, 2021 4:24 pm

Nice to see A&M and Clemson get beaten. Love the upsets.

Steveg
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September 25, 2021 5:39 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Michigan St maybe, but Michigan is not that good. They squeaked by Rutgers today. They are better than they were but that is not saying a lot. PSU is playing pretty good ball

Steveg
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September 25, 2021 2:17 pm

Considering the ucla/Stanford game, I think the ruins will start out fast and with their huge speed advantage never look back. Just the way I see it coming up here soon.

HOF19
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September 25, 2021 2:13 pm

Could my brothers team (undefeated 4-0 Boston College ) contend for a division title ?…..Well next Saturday might tell a lot as it is Boston College vs Clemson…………And (speaking of Boston College) as I am typing this ex-Boston College coach (Colorado ST) is upsetting #5 Iowa …….AT Iowa .

Steveg
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September 25, 2021 1:32 pm

Watching todays games so far I have to ask how some of them are in the top 25, is it based on who the HC is and their reputation? Texas A&M is getting beaten up by #12 Arkansas, Iowa St has all it can handle with Baylor. So far SMU, Notre Dame, BC, Bowling Green, and Syracuse all pulled the upsets. College football, ya never know.
Did anyone see Google reported USC hired Marvin Lewis? It isn’t true.

Steveg
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September 25, 2021 1:53 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Looked at NC ST/Clemson? Even Clemson looks weak.
As far as ND/USC, of course we will ask. Maybe Dart will be back, but then maybe Slovis will kick it up a notch or two.

HOF19
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September 25, 2021 10:43 am

All’s I ask the management of this University to do is to interview all the Big Names (or names that most people consider program changers) that they can …..If they do that but EVERYONE they interview SAYS NO and we end up with what might be called a “second tier coach ” then I can not see ANY SC fan criticizing the management for their choice …..I mean it ain’t like there is a way we can FORCE anybody we interview to say YES …….FIGHT ON !!!!!

Steveg
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September 25, 2021 10:04 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I’m still not convinced about Folt/Caruso until I see the hire they make. How much will her SJW mind influence the hiring.

Steveg
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September 25, 2021 9:32 am

USC 42 Oregon State 17 Slovis is back. USC defense is a sack machine.

Chris
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September 25, 2021 7:56 am

My bleacher report feed is full of stories about how bad Clay was and how far down he has dragged out program. Really? Where have these writers been? All of the “emerging details” of Clay’s downfall have all been so well known for so long now, they are non stories to most us fans. I am no longer interested in any of that mess, I’ve watched and lived through it. I’m excited about this week and the future. Fight on!!

Steveg
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September 25, 2021 8:08 am
Reply to  Chris

The media was afraid to mention how bad CH was because they would not be welcome to the press box seats or press conference. Bleacher Report is usually a little behind the timeline, and this just shows it. It is like a bandwagon, it is okay to bash CH now so they all jump on board. We on here have worn it out long ago.

Steveg
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September 25, 2021 6:35 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I do believe Fresno is for real this season. UNLV came ready and out executed Fresno for the first half. Luckily for Fresno the Rebels qb got cramped up and had to be replaced. What I saw was a Fresno team that was well coached and didn’t give up, with Haener finally finding his groove with Cropper catching 4 td tosses. I have to write this as my wife was wearing a bulldog t-shirt during the game. I predict it will come down to Fresno/San Diego St for the MW crown. Hopefully they will remain or move up in the… Read more »

Golden Trojan
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September 25, 2021 7:08 am
Reply to  Steveg

No offense to your wife….GO AZTECS!

Steveg
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September 25, 2021 8:04 am
Reply to  Golden Trojan

I would expect that from you Golden, don’t you live there? We live outside of Fresno, and I can say the Central Valley is red, similar to how Tennessee is orange everywhere. One of the things I love about college football is how it divides us but still unites us all. I am still USC and yes I live in a house divided over that. I hope the Aztecs get a better rating and get into the top 25 where they belong.

Golden Trojan
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September 25, 2021 8:12 am
Reply to  Steveg

I was an Aztec undergrad/Trojan grad student. Love them both but Trojans are number 1. Yes living in SD.

Chris
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September 25, 2021 9:26 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

For sure. The chargers belong there. If everyone is honest, LA is still a raiders town.

RialtoTrojan
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September 24, 2021 10:26 pm

Has the position group Donte was in charge of prior to the end of the Helton era, improved? Actually I think it may have, but Helton undermined the development of all players by his lack of holding players responsible for poor choices. I saw improvement when Coach Williams pulled a player out for causing a stupid penalty. It didn’t just teach one player, it put the team on notice that there would no longer be a blind eye turned toward stupid selfish plays. I will become a believer when I see improvement the offensive line. When softness is no longer… Read more »

volunteerTrojan
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September 24, 2021 9:01 pm

Our next HC needs to be a big enough name to bring Arch Manning to the Trojans. Instant national relevance and visibility that would really get the momentum rolling.

Trojan5
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September 24, 2021 9:43 pm

Volunteer you are probably the only person in the whole of CFB that would even suggest that Arch Manning would come to SC. IMHO there isn’t a coach anywhere that could lure him to LA. I would be surprised if he went to a school west of the Mississippi.

volunteerTrojan
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September 25, 2021 6:24 am
Reply to  Trojan5

Yeah, you’re right on both counts. Doesn’t hurt to dream. When we were rolling in the PC years, we had a nice Louisiana pipeline with McKnight and Booty. We’re a long way from that in more ways than one. IMO, among many other factors, it would also take Arch wanting to get out from under his relatives’ rather large shadow in the southeast. We just don’t have the pull right now, but hopefully soon will.

Golden Trojan
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September 25, 2021 7:05 am

That family is tight. Archie got Eli from the Chargers to the Giants, great move. Peyton and Cooper just finished doing the College Bowl Quiz show. Now Peyton and Eli are doing Monday Night Football show. As long as it is healthy, that’s a pretty good family for a QB to be in.

LawyerJohn
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September 24, 2021 8:05 pm

Everybody is rooting for Williams except the Pac-12 teams because they do not wish to see SC resurrect itself into the 2002-2008 version. It could happen, just not this year with a mediocre offensive line….

And is it just me, but it already seems like Helton was a long, long time ago.

Steveg
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September 24, 2021 8:28 pm
Reply to  LawyerJohn

Clay Helton, the guy you love to forget.

Trojan5
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September 24, 2021 9:37 pm
Reply to  LawyerJohn

LJ, the rest of the Pac-12 and CFB actually want USC to become a dominant force again. They know a strong SC is good for everyone. The question is whether or not it is too late for the Trojans to undo all of the damage of the last 5 years.

Steveg
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September 24, 2021 9:54 pm
Reply to  Trojan5

The question about is it to late, to late for what? To save the Helton era? The new HC will not want to bring back anything other than winning ways. He won’t be a John McKay or a Pete Carroll, he will bring a new look, philosophy, and culture that perhaps has never existed at USC, just like what McKay and Carroll did. I look forward to the future of the program and I am sure it is going to be an exciting time to be a USC fan.

UtahTrojan
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September 24, 2021 10:28 pm
Reply to  Steveg

As long as it is not the air raid.

Steveg
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September 25, 2021 6:47 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

The air raid at USC simply fails because of the O line. If there were holes to run through it would have a whole different look, but unfortunately they have to take what they are given and can execute, which is the pass. I think because of the air raid they have won games that they would have lost miserably with the gumbo we came out of. No, it isn’t the best offense out there for sure, but I can see where it filled a void created by CH who continued to do the same things with no different results.… Read more »

Chris
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September 25, 2021 10:54 am
Reply to  Steveg

Bingo. Oklahoma runs air raid, but they have Bill Bedenbaugh. He is the best OLine coach in country and that offense is off the charts. no matter who ends up coach we are still most likely to be a single back / spread team because that’s what almost everyone is, but if we ditch the air raid version it won’t hurt my feelings.

Steveg
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September 25, 2021 1:24 pm
Reply to  Chris

Me too, I don’t care what offense they run, if they have a good line any offense will work, even the much hated air raid.

Trojan5
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September 25, 2021 10:01 am
Reply to  Steveg

I hope you are right. I am a hell of lot more optimistic about USC football today than I was 2 weeks ago. Curious to see what the crowd is tonight. I would hope the exciting win last week & the absence of CH would be worth 5,000 fans.

UtahTrojan
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September 24, 2021 10:27 pm
Reply to  LawyerJohn

Helton was a long time ago even when he was at USC. He just didn’t realize it.

rleeholder1
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September 25, 2021 5:49 am
Reply to  LawyerJohn

I agree with you that Helton seems to be a long time ago. So many of us wanted the change years ago, but at least it finally happened. I wish Donte Williams nothing but the best, but long term I’d like to see a HC with a lot of Head Coaching experience come in next year.