Williams points toward final season

Most of the summer conditioning talk has focused on the couple of athletes looking to lose weight, but one or two--notably defensive end Leslie Williams--are pursuing the opposite goal. <br><br>"No matter what I eat or how much I eat--the weight just doesn't stick," he said.

Listed at 6-5, 223 pounds in the spring, Williams knows that additional bulk would make his job easier. "My weight is a problem," he acknowledged. "This summer I'm going to use the time to get stronger. We'll see how things turn out."

What's he weighing now? "Right now I have no idea," he replied with a chuckle. "I'm between 220 and 230 pounds. I don't know what it is about me and gaining weight. I have no idea."

Despite working hard in the weight room, Leslie Williams has had a hard time adding bulk.

But underweight or not, Williams has proven he can be effective at defensive end.

Position Coach Paul Randolph liked what he saw during spring drills. "Leslie actually finished up spring playing the run very well," Randolph said. "And he's very good off the edge rushing the passer."

Just imagine how good he could be 30 pounds heavier. "I'm effective without the weight, so I feel like if I had the weight I might could dominate," Williams said. "If I was 250 (pounds), I could dominate. If I can hold my own at my present weight against linemen that are really good, then I'd be tough to stop."

According to Williams, it's all about the "want to." "I don't think weight is the deciding factor," Williams explained. "I think it's the heart. Brooks Daniels is not the biggest linebacker in the league. He's slender. But Brooks gets the job done.

"He has heart, and that's what counts."

Williams signed with the Tide as part of the '99 class. He saw extensive action on special teams that first year, but did not play in 2000. He took a brief break from school and redshirted the next year. Williams saw action in every game in 2002, totaling 145 snaps. He finished the season with seven tackles, two for a loss. His blocked punt versus Oklahoma, recovered by Lance Taylor and returned for a touchdown, rates easily as Williams' biggest play so far at Alabama.

This season the Tide coaches are counting on Williams to be a part of the playing rotation at defensive end.

So far Williams' contributions have been mainly on special teams. But with Todd Bates ineligible this season, Randolph is counting on the tall senior to be a valuable part of his playing rotation at defensive end. "With the loss of Todd, Leslie Williams becomes key to our defensive line," Randolph said.

For his part, Williams sees plenty of talent at his position, beginning with starters Antwan Odom and Nautyn McKay-Loescher. Williams also touts the talent of backups Mark Anderson, Chris Harris and Jonathan Brunson.

"I think we'll be okay," Williams said. "In fact I think we'll be very good. ‘Chief' (McKay-Loescher)is back. ‘Twan (Odom) is still here. Mark and I are good speed rushers off the end. We can hold our own. Brunson is a good, upcoming candidate for playing time. He's strong and can do the job. Chris Harris is going to be a big factor also.

"We're all working hard. I think we'll be fine. Things are looking good."

What about replacing Jarret Johnson, Kindal Moorehead and Kenny King--all starters last year now playing in the NFL?

"Alabama is always going to have good athletes," Williams said. "We've got a really good program that recruits well. Alabama is always going to have athletes. If you lose some, you'll gain some. It goes on, no matter what."

Ideally the Tide coaches would prefer Williams weigh in the 250-pound range, but his tall, angular frame combined with excellent speed make him a dangerous pass rusher. "He runs like the wind," Randolph pointed out.

Built more like a small forward than a D-End, Williams utilizes speed and quickness to be effective against much bigger offensive linemen.

"I talked with Coach Randolph after spring practice," Williams recalled. "He told me that he thought that I had a very good spring. I felt the same way. I wouldn't say I am one of the better athletes on the defensive line, but I'm an athlete that works hard."

One way or another, Williams is determined to make his last season his best.

He explained, "This is the year for all the seniors to step up. We want to do a really good job and leave here with a positive attitude. We want to show that Alabama is still on top. We're dedicated. We're working hard to make that happen."


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