Williams shares vision for rest of Trojans’ season

USC football running back Darwin Barlow runs toward the end zone with the ball and a Stanford defender clinging on his hip.
Redshirt sophomore running back Darwin Barlow runs for the end zone in USC’s 42-28 Saturday night loss against Stanford. Barlow transferred from TCU last summer. (Julia Hur | Daily Trojan)

After parting ways with former head coach Clay Helton, USC athletic director Mike Bohn appointed associate head coach Donte Williams as interim head coach. Minutes before it was released to the public, the announcement was made to the team and Williams.

“To be honest, I found out right before the team meeting,” said Williams on USC’s “Trojans Live” radio show Monday. “It was just a normal day for me. I was just making sure my guys were ready to play, and next thing you know, right before the team meeting, Mike [Bohn] and [assistant athletic director] Brandon [Sosna] pulled me in and talked to me.”

Williams was hired by USC in February 2020 to be the cornerbacks coach and one of their premier recruiters. He previously served as the Oregon
cornerbacks coach, where he spent two years developing his reputation as one of the most elite recruiters in the nation. Williams’ efforts as a recruiter helped the Ducks steal high school recruits right out of USC’s backyard, including former
five-star linebacker Justin Flowe.  

In December 2020, Williams was promoted to associate head coach after helping the USC recruiting class finish 57 spots higher than it did the previous year. Now, Williams believes his recruiting history with these players provides an advantage in forming relationships with them as their new head coach.

“I’m a person that’s very fortunate because a lot of these guys either I’ve recruited here, or I’ve recruited at past places. I believe I have a great relationship with the guys on our team, I have a great relationship with the staff we have in place here,” he said. “A lot of these guys’ families I even know pretty well, so I think the change that is happening right now is a lot easier for me than it would be for someone else.”

Bohn had nothing but good things to say about his new interim head coach.

“You’re really gonna enjoy Donte Williams,” said Bohn Monday during “Trojan’s Live.” “Donte is a gentleman, and, the good news, is he’s got some really talented coaches in that room with him. He has a unique ability just to connect with young people. I am really looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

Williams also has a clear cut vision for how he wants his team to approach the future. 

“Right now, the season’s just started. My biggest thing is about enhancing everything we do,” he said. “How can we enhance everything we do — whether it’s the way we lift weights, the way we eat, the way we practice, the way we play — just enhancing everything we do. That’s the biggest message right now.”

Williams offered his insight on USC’s blowout 42-28 loss to Stanford last Saturday.

“Too many little things become huge and big things, and they cost us. They cost us penalties, they cost us dumb mistakes, they cost us as a team, they cost us as a, University,” he said. “Everyone in this organization needs to do something a little bit better than what they were doing before, including myself.”

The family connection is what makes Williams comfortable with leading the team after a loss with a lot of backfire. Although the loss to Stanford Saturday led to outpour on social media from fans and alumni for the firing of Helton, Williams had high praise for the fans and hopes they can remain supportive throughout the rest of the season.

“The atmosphere of this past game was electric,” he said. “It’s based on us and the product we put on the field to make sure that environment stays that way and gets even better. I’m about making sure the Coliseum is sold out. What we need to do is make sure we put the best product on the field to make sure that happens.”

Williams’ first test as a head coach will come this Saturday on the road against Washington State at 12:30 p.m.