The injuries that have hampered USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams this season, both shoulder and ankle problems, don't appear to have dampened excitement for the underclassman among NFL scouts. In advance of Saturday's USC-UCLA game, the Los Angeles Times gathered scouting opinions on the top prospects on both teams. And one recognized that Williams' impressive junior season has come at less than full strength.
"Before I went in there, I thought this guy had a lot of hype. When I saw him, I thought he is the real deal," the scout said. "He's got a great body, quick off the ball. He did have that shoulder surgery, so he's a little bit behind strength-wise, but he still has plenty of strength. He's got tremendous upside."
Williams had surgery in the offseason to repair a torn labrum. The scout said Williams' most impressive game film of the year came against Arizona, a 28-26 USC win, in which he made eight solo tackles, two sacks, and forced a fumble. Williams has six sacks this season. He has until mid-January to declare eligibility for the 2015 NFL Draft.
A few other scouting notes from The Times on USC's top prospects:
USC junior WR Nelson Agholor: "He's a perfect No. 3 [receiver] in the NFL for a team, a slot receiver, and return specialist," one scout said. "With those slot guys, you want to see them compete over the middle, but you also want to see them be able to separate versus man coverage underneath, be able to find the windows versus zone, and then be able to run after the catch because a lot of times you're catching it on the run on a quick slant and you want to get upfield quickly, make a guy miss, and run. He's got some of that to him."
USC senior LB Hayes Pullard: While one scout projected Pullard as a third- or fourth-round pick, another didn't see him going quite that high. "He does a lot of things well," the scout said. "He's going to be a special-teams type, a depth linebacker at the next level. Fifth, sixth round."
USC senior CB Josh Shaw: The bizarre fabrication that led to his suspension for most of the season, not surprisingly, is a red flag for scouts on the former Trojans captain. Shaw has just been reinstated. "It was a stupid mistake that I'm sure he just got overwhelmed with and couldn't dig out. He's just going to need to come clean and answer those things for NFL teams," the scout said. "As far as a player, I thought he was a pretty good corner. I'd say he's going to be a mid- to late-round guy that somebody's going to take a chance on."