Sophomore in no rush to decide

INDIANAPOLIS -- Southern California receiver Mike Williams said Monday that he has yet to decide whether to turn pro or return to the Trojans for his junior season.

"I'm still thinking about it, using all my resources," Williams said after meeting with Trojans coach Pete Carroll. "When it comes, it'll come. If I were to talk about all the factors, we'd be here all day. Time is a big factor. I understand the USC issue and the NFL part of it.

"I had a long, genuine talk with coach Carroll. It's great that he supports me either or."

If he turns pro, Williams would become the first underclassman to enter the draft since the NFL was forced by the Maurice Clarett case to alter its eligibility rules.

Several sources told ESPN.com late last week that Williams, who would be among the top receiver prospects in the draft, had decided to forego his remaining two seasons of college eligibility. He had not filed the required paperwork with the NFL, however, then met with his parents over the weekend to discuss his future.

"Mike is still working through this decision. He's just trying to figure it out," Carroll told reporters Monday. "I just spent some time with him making sense of it. It's a complex issue with a lot of factors involved. He's doing all he can to make a decision."

"The NFL is a big lure. I understand that. It's a hard decision. It's not clear to him. There are many variables. We've done everything we can think of to support Mike and provide him with information."

All the same, Carroll seemed to suggest that he wanted to persuade Williams to bypass the draft this year to give himself plenty of time to consider all of his options.

"If he didn't love being at USC, he'd go to the NFL. That's why it's not an easy decision," Carroll said. "USC is a good marriage for him.

"I have the same opinion as the guys in the NFL do on what Mike should decide. We think he should stay because of the lateness of the late decision and because they don't have a lot of information on him. But we talked about the other side of it, too."

In his two seasons at USC, Williams has 176 catches for 2,570 yards and 30 touchdowns.

Williams, 20, is actually 3½ months younger than Clarett, who challenged the league's eligibility rules and was admitted to the draft when a U.S. District Court judge in New York ruled the NFL guidelines in violation of anti-trust laws.

The NFL is appealing that decision but, because of the ruling, the league re-opened its draft deadline and players now have until March 1 to petition for early entry into the 2004 lottery April 24-25.

Because he is not yet three years removed from his high school class graduation date, Williams would not have been eligible under the NFL's former rules. Williams said after the Clarett ruling that he had no intention of leaving the Trojans, the defending co-national champions. But several general managers and personnel directors surveyed here Friday said they were not surprised by news that Williams might be a part of the '04 draft pool.

Since he is not yet included in the draft, team officials and coaches cannot discuss Williams and his NFL potential. On Thursday, league officials told ESPN.com that no college or high school players had yet applied for inclusion in the draft under the new guidelines.

Some team officials acknowledged they have been contacted by friends of Williams, attempting to have them phone him and offer their assessments of where he might fit into this year's draft.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.