After a thrilling upset win over Oregon last week, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez is preparing his team for a pivotal game against USC on Saturday. And quite naturally, Trojans defensive lineman Leonard Williams has caught his eye on film.
Rodriguez said he believes Williams will be a first-round NFL draft pick.
"You're talking about a guy who is 6-6, 300 pounds, that is as fast as our skill players. He is a first-rounder who is going to be playing for a long time," Rodriguez said at the 9:10 mark of his Monday news conference. "Thankfully, you don't see them all the time. Nobody sees that kind of guy every week. We've got to be really good technique-wise. He's going to beat you sometimes. You understand that and know that. But you don't want him to beat you because you're being sloppy with your technique."
Williams is actually listed at just 6-foot-5, but forgive Rodriguez for giving one of the top pro prospects in the college game an extra inch.
He no doubt looks a bit bigger on film.
The junior has played impressively this season with 30 tackles (ranking third on the team) with two sacks, an interception and two pass breakups through five games. In USC's biggest win of the season, an upset of Stanford, Williams overcame an ankle injury to make 11 tackles and a sack.
USC's interim coach in 2013, Ed Orgeron, was the first to publicly identify Williams as a potential first-round draft pick. Since then, the versatile defender has drawn attention from NFL scouts at both the tackle and end positions. NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks evaluated film of Williams over the summer, and described Williams as a work in progress entering the 2014 season.
Whether Williams will be drafted in 2015 or 2016, of course, remains unclear. Williams is an underclassman who will make a decision about early draft entry after the season.