Both athletes are all-stars in college and also considered to be excellent pro prospects. Karlos Dansby could have left school early last year, and there is talk that Carnell Williams might, following this season.
Prior to this year Williams was considered injury-prone, but the pre-season All-SEC selection has so far been healthy. Williams has 1,035 yards rushing this season, which is the 12th best total in Auburn single-season history.
Tide Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines has the task of game planning to stop the Cadillac. "Carnell's speed is good to great, but the thing that makes him special is probably his eyes," Kines said. "He has great vision. He sees the hole. He sees where everybody is on defense and then has the ability to make the cut and avoid the tackle. Great eyes, great speed and uncanny balance."
An electrifying athlete in the open field, Williams is as physically gifted a runner as there is in college football.
"It's really hard to knock him off his feet," Kines said. "If you watch four quarters of film on him, during that time you'll be lucky to get a good clean shot on him more than two or three times. He gets tackled, but he doesn't get brought down with a solid lick many times."
Averaging 94.1 yards per game, Williams is third in the SEC in rushing and second in terms of touchdowns scored per game. Kines commented, "The thing that sets him apart is how well he sees the field. I don't remember a back with better vision. You only see three or four in a career with great vision, and this guy is certainly one of them. He sees things going 100 mph that most folks can't see standing still."
During a remarkable three-game stretch earlier this season against Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi State, Williams rushed for 496 yards on 86 carries with eight touchdowns. Williams joined Bo Jackson as the only player in school history to gain 150+ yards in three consecutive games.
"As far as the physical talents it takes to run the ball, he's as good as anybody in the country," Kines said. "If you break down the things you've got to have to run the football, a back has to have speed, cutting ability and vision. Of all that, his vision may be as good as anybody we've seen on tape in a long time."
"Gang tackling will be key," Kines concluded. "We'd like to get as many folks to the ball as we can."
As Auburn's spotlight player on defense, senior linebacker Karlos Dansby is proving why he was a first-team All-America selection by nearly every pre-season publication.
Tide Offensive Coordinator Dave Rader commented, "Their linebackers are very good. Dansby and (Dontarrious) Thomas are so big. They all run well, but Dansby especially. They're an impressive group. I don't know of a better looking group of linebackers that we've played. They're such good tacklers."
Fast and with long arms, Dansby also excels in pass coverage. He is second on the team in pass breakups. In three years he's intercepted eight passes.
"You can tell they have a lot of confidence in Dansby, because they leave him in when they go to their dime package," Rader said. "He's covering man-to-man, so you know he's a fine athlete."
Dansby leads Auburn in tackles with 68, and is second in tackles for a loss (11) and third in sacks (4).
Tide Head Coach Mike Shula talked about the problems an athlete like Dansby creates for an offense. "He's got what you want in a linebacker: size and speed. He can run from sideline to sideline. He takes on blocks really well, whether a fullback or a guard trying to kick him out. The more you watch them, the more you're impressed with their defense and those linebackers."
Signed by Auburn on the promise that he'd get a chance to play wide receiver, Dansby was quickly (and wisely) moved to defense, where his combination of size (6-5, 235) and speed present a physical mismatch for most would-be blockers.
Rader explained what has to happen for Bama to negate Dansby's playmaking ability.
"Whoever's blocking him needs to make sure he holds his block well beyond what you normally might think is called for," Rader said. "He's so fast that he can run down the play and make the tackle. If you don't stay on him, he'll make the play. When you play a guy like that, you always have to be aware of him.
"We're looking forward to playing him, but he's going to challenge us to our maximum."