Familiar face returns to the team

No matter the details of the as yet unannounced NCAA sanctions, Alabama will be facing a numbers crunch in terms of scholarships. The Tide has already self-imposed a reduction of 15 scholarships over the next three seasons, which will undoubtedly eat into the squad's quality depth. <br><br>So the recent return of Leslie Williams to the team has to be taken as good news.

Originally signed by Alabama in 1999, Williams played sparingly during his true freshman year. Under NCAA rules every college athlete has five years to complete four seasons of eligibility. So Williams would still have two seasons left to compete for the Tide.

"He asked me for another chance, and I agreed," Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione said.

There is no way of knowing exactly what penalties the NCAA will enforce, but Alabama's self-imposed sanctions called for a reduction in 15 "initial counter" scholarships spread out over the next three years. Normally, a school could bring in 25 new players each year--75 over a three-year period. But Alabama's total number would be limited to a maximum of 60.

During that three-year period Alabama could award available scholarships to eligible walk-on athletes, but keeping a base level of scholarship-quality players on campus will be critical. Since Williams has already counted once as an "initial counter," his would essentially be a "found" scholarship for the Tide.

In his only season at Alabama, Williams saw action in nine games, totaling 59 snaps. Contributing as a special teams player, he was credited with two tackles. He also had a promising A-Day game in the spring of 2000.

Though at this point no decision has been made as to which position he will play, Williams is a tall, fast and athletic player who could provide depth at a couple of spots.

Williams is a tall (6-5), speedy athlete. Back in '99 he was tried at both linebacker and defensive end. Veteran practice observers remember him for his ability to pressure the quarterback off the edge. And when he couldn't make the sack, Williams had a knack for getting his hands up and batting the pass down.

But unfortunately, his relatively light weight limited his effectiveness at defensive end. Despite trying, he could not seem to gain much above 225 pounds, which meant he could never be used as an every-down player on defense.

Current Graduate Assistant Paul Hogan remembers Williams from their days together on the team. "He always had a hard time putting on weight," Hogan said. "But he was always fast."

For the time being Williams is exercising running agility drills with the tight ends and wide receivers, but the Tide coaches frankly aren't sure yet where he might eventually fit in.

"I don't really know what he is," Franchione said. "For now he's just an athlete."

Williams was a four-year starter in high school, two at Stone Mountain, Georgia (junior and senior years) and two at Mountain High School in Arizona. He had 68 solo tackles, 25 assists, 17 sacks, six fumbles caused and two recoveries as a junior at Stone Mountain to earn his team MVP award. He was named to the Prep Sports All-South second team, and signed with Alabama after originally committing to Georgia Tech.

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