September 16, 2008

Practice Insider: A day of firsts

Damian Williams made a mistake in the Trojans' 35-3 win over Ohio State Saturday in the Coliseum. Tuesday, he had the limp to prove it.

In the first half of the game, Williams ran a route, and hit the turf after planting incorrectly. The injury limited his reps in the half, but he returned to make a major impact, catching his first two touchdown passes of his USC career.

Williams didn't participate in practice Tuesday because of his ankle, but his impact on the vastly improved USC air attack can't be undersold.

"He's been a factor. He feels like Steve Smith out here," Pete Carroll said. "He's going to make the right decision. We feel like he's consistently finding the open spots.

"Quarterbacks can trust him. He'll make good decisions for them."

Williams and USC quarterback Mark Sanchez have forged a strong relationship in a little over a year, since Williams transferred from Arkansas.

"Mark and I worked a lot over the summer, whether it was here or down in Orange County," Williams said. "We were just trying to get everything down pat. We've just had a lot of plays where I've been able to get open, especially from the slot."

Sanchez can't stop himself from praising Williams as a person and as a receiver.

"He's just a lovable kid. He's affable. He speaks well, and he's sharp. He's got one of the best GPA's on the team," Sanchez said. "Football wise, he's a natural. He's probably been playing catch his whole life. He's got great hands. He's got a great feel for it.

Williams has been Sanchez's favorite target through two games, leading the team in receptions (10), yards (140) and touchdowns (2).

His first touchdown catch was especially memorable.

"I felt so blessed to be there," Williams said. "I was just happy I finally got in. I wanted to celebrate with my teammates.

"It felt really good."

Another first

Before Williams grabbed the first touchdown pass of his career, freshman tight end Blake Ayles grabbed a one-yard pass from Sanchez for the Trojans' second score of the game.

But when his number was called in the huddle, Ayles said he felt like a freshman all of a sudden.

"I was like 'Oh (expletive),'" he said. "I better catch it."

Ayles ran his route, and the Ohio State defense bit on a fake to Stanley Havili, leaving Ayles all alone in the back of the end zone.

"The play was pretty much drawn up for me to be wide open," Ayles said. "I just ran and turned around. It was pretty easy."

Practices haven't been pretty easy, as Ayles said the work against the more experienced Trojans have benefited him and the rest of the freshmen class - a class that got stronger Tuesday with the debuts of Curtis McNeal and Nick Perry on the practice field.

"We're complete now," Ayles said. "We're pretty damn good. I'm looking at all our guys, and we're looking good."

New kids on the block

Perry and McNeal weren't speaking to the media on their first day at USC practice, but the pair said plenty with their facial expressions. Both players entered the field with giant-sized smiles on their faces.

On the field, both were obviously limited because of their lack of playbook experience, but that didn't keep them from participating.

"They did all right today. We had to kind of coax them a long," Carroll said. "They don't know what they're doing yet, but they went out there and looked good at times.

"We just wanted to get them out there because we're so curious. Everyone was curious."

McNeal's first misstep of the day came early, when he went through team stretches instead of working with the punt returners. Perry spent his day working as the strongside linebacker.

Extra Points

• Cornerback Shareece Wright didn't practice Tuesday because of a stiff neck. Wednesday morning, Wright will face a different challenge, as he's due in court after being charged with a felony charge of resisting an office.

Wright said he's not too worried about the proceedings, and he's anxious for the legal process to end so he can tell his side of the story.

• In addition to Wright and Williams, Kyle Moore, Joe McKnight, Havili and Garrett Green all sat out.

• McKnight said the migraine headaches he suffered Saturday were due to the lights inside the Coliseum.

"I don't even think I got hit in the game," McKnight said.

McKnight said it was the first time he's suffered from migraines. He's being held out of contact and the weight room until he's feeling better. He could be back as soon as Wednesday.

• The TV show 60 Minutes was on hand Tuesday, as they worked on a piece profiling Carroll.


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