Going back home again

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- For Leonard Williams, the math all added up, even if the answer didn't pop into his mind until late.

The 6-foot-5, 260-pound defensive end announced Wednesday that he will attend Southern California instead of Florida, a decision which was greeted with polite applause more so than shouts of joy at Mainland High School. Any urge to stay closer to home was offset by the Trojans' commitment to running a 4-3 defense, something he couldn't get from the Gators.

"I think I'll flourish in that kind of defense," said Williams, ESPNU's No. 50 recruit in the country.

"He felt more comfortable going into a place where he knew it was going to be 4-3, versus a place that ran some 4-3 and 3-4," added Scott Wilson, his high school coach.

Williams won't be coming to an unfamiliar part of the country. He grew up in North Hollywood before moving to Florida with his family when he was 8, and he still has relatives in the Los Angeles area.
Still, it wasn't until Wednesday morning that he crossed the Gators off his list.

"I was all set to go to Florida," Williams said. "Ever since I was little, that was my team. But after experiencing all this, I found out what was truly the best for me."

Part of that experience included a visit here last week by coach Lane Kiffin, assistant head coach Monte Kiffin and defensive and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron. As much as anyone, it was the elder Kiffin whom both Williams and Wilson said carried the most weight on the final decision.

"I have a great connection with them," Williams said. "I think they can take me to a place I'm trying to achieve."

While the Gators are coming off a disappointing first season under coach Will Muschamp, the Trojans are expected to be ranked in the top five in the preseason polls. But as part of its sanctions handed down by the NCAA, USC can offer only 15 scholarships each of the next three years and by fall its roster cannot exceed 75 scholarship players.

Those off-the-field matters didn't weigh as heavily on Williams' mind as the doubts about the adjustments Florida might need to make on defense to compete with Alabama and LSU.

"I've been hearing a lot of different stuff about them," he said. "And I don't want to go in there and find out it's true."

Williams also cited USC's sports medicine program as a determining factor. Other schools in the running for him were Florida State, Miami and Auburn. Auburn's cap was the only other one placed in front of him before announcing his decision, although Williams said that was because he didn't have time to purchase caps from elsewhere.

"He's going to be an awesome football player and a person in life," Wilson said. "And I look forward to that. Working under those guys, I don't doubt he's going to be a professional in the next couple of years."