“View from the Stands” is a column by Jimmy Goodman about USC sports.
A week after National Signing Day, USC finally landed its biggest recruit of the offseason.
Donte Williams, the former cornerbacks coach at Oregon, is heading down the coast to Los Angeles to join a suddenly revamped Trojan coaching staff and is bringing his nationally recognized recruiting prowess with him. While the move comes in a flurry of unfortunate circumstances — Williams noted his father’s age and health as a primary motivation — the impact of an addition like this to the Trojan staff can hardly be understated.
Listed by 247Sports as the seventh-most prolific recruiter in the nation, Williams is sure to push USC’s brand back toward its often-referenced, seldom-shown blue-chip status. In the 2020 class alone, Williams reeled in two five-star prospects for the Ducks, including Southern California local and noted USC target Justin Flowe.
After the news began to spread about Williams’ departure from Oregon, many recruits and players took to Twitter to express their surprise and excitement.
Many gauge the value of a hire based on the reactions of the other fanbase. This case passed the litmus test, as Oregon fans were not the only ones lamenting the loss. In the wake of his move to USC, Williams has left Oregon recruiting on surprisingly shaky ground.
In addition to the highly touted Dontae Manning, local product and 2021 four-star safety Anthony Beavers Jr. has publicly reneged on his verbal commitment to the Ducks.
It hasn’t reached a point of mass exodus, but losing Williams does much to damage the heavy momentum Oregon has gained in recruiting circles in Southern California and nationally. To lose Williams to a conference rival, however, is bound to boost USC football back into the recruiting spotlight where they were decidedly absent in 2020. Head coach Clay Helton could’ve hardly needed a hail mary more and in Donte Williams he has gotten just that.
Williams, who will take on the role of cornerbacks coach and passing game coordinator, inherits a young talented core of Trojan corners led by junior Olaijah Griffin, redshirt junior Greg Johnson and sophomore Chris Steele.
Steele was distinctly excited by the hiring, as he and Williams both share plenty of Oregon connections. At one time a verbal commit to Oregon after announcing his transfer from Florida, Steele and Williams both find themselves at USC in order to take care of or ease the burden on their families. For Steele, Williams was likely a critical reason he had considered going to Oregon last summer and thus has been welcomed by the standout sophomore with open arms.
Williams is already busy for USC as dozens of highly touted recruits all over the map have announced their Trojan football offers via Twitter. For the Trojan fans tired of stagnation and inaction, Williams has hit the ground running in his mission to change the face of USC recruiting.
Aside from Williams, Helton and Mike Bohn have continued to make quality hires from all corners of the nation to fill out their staff restock. After letting go of defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and the balance of the defensive staff, Helton, Bohn and new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando have plucked a talented group of assistants from across the country to help re-establish USC on and off the field.
On Wednesday, reports emerged that talented Virginia defensive line coach Vic So’oto would be joining the Trojan staff. A former linebacker at BYU and disciple of Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall, So’oto checks all the boxes as a southern California native and second cousin of former Trojan legend Junior Seau. Working in a 3-4 scheme at UVA, So’oto should be a natural fit alongside Todd Orlando and will do much to continue to boost USC’s local recruiting presence.
Rounding out the defensive staff is Orlando’s right-hand man Craig Naivar. Coming in to coach the safeties group, Naivar coached with Orlando in Texas and even took over the defense for their 38-10 Alamo Bowl victory after Orlando departed from the staff. During his tenure in Austin, Naivar coached nationally recognized talents such as DeShon Elliott and Caden Stearns and is certainly going to get the most out of the skilled Trojan defensive backs.
On the special teams side, longtime Kansas State assistant Sean Snyder was tabbed to take over duties from John Baxter. After years of poor discipline and lack of results under Baxter, USC is sure to be given new life on special teams, as Kansas State saw freshman return man Joshua Youngblood return three kicks for touchdowns in 2019.
All of this is to say that, despite reasonable fan unrest regarding the head coaching decision, USC has done much to ensure that the 2020 recruiting black eye will heal over. Adding Williams and others will do much to not only prevent a finish outside the top 50, but return USC to that expected blue-chip status.
“View from the Stands” runs every other Thursday.