Williams' debut in Crimson nears

Heading into last spring's A-Day contest, Tide fans were anxious to get their first look at Shaud Williams. But even the most optimistic were startled by the junior transfer's outstanding performance. <br><br>However, Running Backs Coach Lee Fobbs wasn't the least bit surprised. "As far as the fans were concerned, Shaud exploded out there," he acknowledged. "But the coaches knew what he could do."

After leading all Texas 4A rushers his senior season of high school with 2,121 yards, Williams had been recruited hard by the current Tide staff to attend Texas Christian. At the time Williams really like Dennis Franchione, but he decided to sign with Texas Tech. "There's no doubt," Fobbs said. "Even as far back as high school, we knew what he could do."

As his Alabama debut draws near, Williams is anxious to show Tide fans what he can do.

A two-sport prep star in track and football, Williams rushed for more than 2,000 yards for three consecutive seasons, totaling 7,710 yards during his career--the second-best career total in 4A Texas high school history. He scored 87 career touchdowns, 27 during a stellar senior season. Williams was a four-year All-District selection and three-time All-District MVP. During both his junior and senior seasons, he was named first-team Texas All-State.

"Shaud brings speed, quickness and elusiveness," Franchione said. "And he's played two years of hard-nosed, Division 1a football."

Though Franchione wanted Williams bad at TCU, those two seasons were spent at Texas Tech. Williams spent his first college season playing for Spike Dykes in a run-oriented offense. He led the Red Raiders that year with 638 yards rushing, highlighted by a 230-yard performance versus Colorado. Williams' seven rushing touchdowns and 5.9 yards per carry average were also tops on the squad.

"We knew a lot about Shaud from a few years ago trying to recruit him," Franchione said. "From his time at Texas Tech, he's been out there against great competition in big games. He's a quality person, and he is a versatile athlete."

For his freshman production, Williams was named Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year. But following that season Texas Tech made a coaching change, involving a complete reversal in offensive philosophy. Running was out. Passing was in.

And during his second season Williams found himself out in the cold. "I had decided to leave Texas Tech, and (Coach Franchione) came along at a time when I didn't like the game of football anymore," Williams explained. "I didn't want to play. I had a bad taste in my mouth.

Pictured in the weight room with safety Hamid Haqq, Williams quickly developed a reputation as one of the best lifters on the squad.

"But Coach Fran came along and built my spirits back up. He gave me hope and taught me to love the game of football again. That's why I'm here at Alabama."

When word got out that Williams was leaving Texas Tech, Franchione quickly sought permission to contact him. "After everything that happened, I felt that if he was coming back for me a second time then it was meant for Fran to be my coach," Williams related. "I'm a Texas boy, but I came here with Coach Fran. He's a great coach."

Of course NCAA rules dictate that all transfers must sit out a season before playing, and 2001 was not easy. Fobbs explained, "He's very, very hungry. Last year was a very tough year for him. You can look back last year and the kid never took a step backwards. He was on that scout team busting his rear end getting that defense ready to play. That's just Shaud Williams."

Tuscaloosa is a long way from Andrews, Texas, but Williams spent his first season in Crimson working as hard as he could to fit in. Watching from the stands on Saturdays was frustrating, but he knew his time would come. "Shaud is an excellent student," Fobbs related. "He's a business major with great parents. He just strives to be the best in everything he does. That was evident of his productivity throughout spring."

It was a long time coming, but Williams made the most of his first opportunity last spring at A-Day. Displaying excellent speed and elusiveness, the scatback gained 95 yards on only 8 carries--an average of 11.9 yards a pop. He also made an impressive catch on a poorly thrown ball, twisting in midair to haul in the pass.

The Tide coaches have developed the hybrid A-Back position largely as an attempt to keep Williams on the field as much as possible.

Shaud showed his running ability, scoring from the tailback position on a 31-yard carry," Franchione said of that performance. "He can catch the ball coming out of the backfield. He made a great catch that day on a ball where he turned all the way around. Plus, I think we'll see him make some impact in the return game for us."

Williams followed up that A-Day production by impressing fans and coaches alike at the Night of Champions weight-lifting exhibition. "If you watched him on the Night of Champions, he was totally focused," Fobbs said. "His teammates were all around jacking him up. But after each lift he'd go over and be by himself a little bit. After he missed one, I asked him was he going to try it again. He answered, ‘Yes sir!' He was positive. Coach Fran talks about finding a way to get the job done. And he did."

Largely in response to Williams' presence on the team, the staff has developed the A-Back position, designed to get more than one tailback on the field at the same time. "I think that's going to be a good situation for us," Franchione said. "As we have always done we've spent a lot of time evaluating over the summer what is the best way for us to have success--which personnel groupings to put on the field, and how we can play to our players' talents the best. That's been the beauty of our offense and what our offensive players have done."

The season opener against MTSU will mark Williams' debut game in Crimson, and as far as he's concerned the contest can't get here fast enough. "I'm probably the oldest ‘true freshman' around, but it was just one of those things I had to get through," Williams said. "Now I just want to get back out there on the field--to strap it on Saturdays and play. I want to get it going, because I'm excited."

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