An intriguing matchup possibility at wideout

At one point last season, Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione was discussing height as it relates to matchups between receivers and cornerbacks. His interesting observation was that he viewed an inch of height advantage as roughly equivalent to a tenth of a point advantage on 40-yard dash times. <br><br>Obviously Franchione was speaking in general terms, but it's intriguing to think of what his words might mean if new Tider Leslie Williams sticks at wide receiver.

Originally signed by Alabama out of Stone Mountain, Georgia, Williams spent two almost completely nonproductive seasons in Tuscaloosa working exclusively on defense. Standing a legitimate 6-5 and with very good speed, he was always regarded as a gifted athlete. But every body-type is unique, and Williams' long, lean frame bore more resemblance to a small forward in basketball than anyone's idea of a collegiate defensive end.

"He was always listed at 220 pounds," said one coach. "But I don't think he ever got above 215."

According to Williams, even that number is probably generous. He spent most of his first two years at The Capstone, hovering just above 210 pounds, far below the necessary weight for a D-Lineman. And despite filling up on food every chance he got and lifting weights, that number was not going up.

Matched against other comparable athletes, Williams (right) is consistently out front during winter wind sprints.

"I don't know why they had me at defensive end," Williams said. "I've often asked that question myself. You'd have to ask the previous coaching staff that one."

Williams left the Tide team for personal reasons, fairly soon after the new staff took over last winter. But when he called Coach Franchione a couple of months back, asking for permission to rejoin the team, the Tide Head Coach essentially said, "Why not?"

Signed originally in 1999, Williams has two years of college eligibility left.

"I'm really not sure where he'll end up," Franchione said. "For now we've got him at wide receiver."

Position changes on a football team are nothing new, but the journey from the defensive line to wide receiver is longer than most. And questions obviously come up about speed. "My best time in the 40 (yard dash) was 4.5," Williams said.

If that figure is even in the ball park, then speed alone shouldn't prevent Williams from playing on offense. The NFL is filled with productive receivers that run the 40-yard dash in the 4.55-4.60 range.

Spring practice will be a time when numerous athletes are tried at different positions, and it remains to be seen whether Williams will stick at wideout. But during off-season workouts he lifts and runs with the receivers. And though all such "races" are far from official, the Georgia native is consistently in the lead when his group runs conditioning sprints.

Of course running wind sprints and catching a football on Saturdays in the SEC are two entirely different things, but Williams hopes his height will give him an edge. "I'm 6-5," he said. "The SEC hasn't seen a 6-5 receiver like me."


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