Bama's resident Sooner expert

Having met only twice before--most recently in 1970--neither Alabama nor Oklahoma have much direct knowledge about each other. But before transferring to Alabama from Texas Tech, Tide A-Back Shaud Williams played the Sooners twice. <br><br>"They're tough, and they're well coached," Williams said. "They're not in the Top 3 in the nation for nothing."

From Andrews, Texas, Williams originally signed with the Red Raiders. Though he's now at Alabama, after transferring following his sophomore year, Williams has twice experienced Oklahoma up close and personal. "They're a good ball club with tremendous team speed," was his assessment. "We've got our work cut out for us. We're going to have to go down there and play sound. We can't have any mistakes or they'll beat us.

"We're going to have to come ready to play or else it's going to be a long day."

November 18, 2000: Shaud Williams #19 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders carries the ball during the game against the Oklahoma Sooners at the Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. The Sooners defeated the Red Raiders 27-13. ( Brian Bahr /Allsport)

Interestingly, though Williams finished his freshman season as his team's leading rusher, he did not see action in an early-season game against the Sooners. The Red Raiders won that 1999 game, 38-28. "My freshman year at Texas Tech was (Oklahoma Head Coach Bob) Stoops' first year," Williams said. "We beat them. And then the next year was the year they won the national championship."

Despite starting in only four games, Williams finished his freshman season as the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year. But the off-season brought a new coaching staff and an entirely new offense to Texas Tech, and when he played Oklahoma again Williams was an out-of-position receiver. His second time around against Oklahoma, Williams carried the ball only three times for eight yards and caught nine passes for 59 yards. OU won that game and finished the season with a perfect 13-0 record and defeated Florida State 13-2 at the Orange Bowl for the national championship.

"We went down to Norman (Oklahoma), and they beat us 27-13," Williams recalled. "That game was the year they won the national title, but actually I think the team they have this year is better than their national championship year."

As the only Tide athlete with actual playing experience in Norman, Williams can provide good advice. "I've been to Oklahoma. I know what the atmosphere is like. I'm telling my teammates to go in there and it's going to be us against them. They're going to have 75,000 to 80,000 people just screaming ‘Boomer Sooner!' We'd better come ready to play."

Under Bob Stoops, Oklahoma has recruited for speed and more speed on defense. Williams commented, "When I played against them, they had Rocky Calmus, Roy Williams and a group of other guys that were just unbelievable. They had good team speed that year, but I think the team this year has even more team speed. Honestly, I really think this team they have now is better than the one they won the national championship with.

Nate Hybl #8 of Oklahoma is congratulated by head coach Bob Stoops. Under Stoops, the Sooners have built probably the fastest defense in college football. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images, AllSport)

"They're just so quick on defense it's unbelievable. We're going to have to be technique sound and stick to our assignments. It's not going to be easy."

One of the most intelligent players on the squad, Williams is careful not to give the Sooners any locker room material, profusely praising the Oklahoma defense at every turn. But he also is confident that Alabama will be able to move the football. "We're going to show up ready to play," Williams said. "The coaches are going to have a great game plan for us. They're going to put us out there with the best opportunity to win.

"The coaches are smart enough. They know what they're doing. We're just going to have to execute the plays they call."

During Saturday's opener against MTSU, Williams participated in only 24 plays, 11 on offense and 13 on special teams. He finished with seven yards on two carries and returned three kickoffs for 63 yards. "Penalties killed us," was his frank assessment. "There's no way we can go to Oklahoma and have 16 penalties and expect to win. They're too good of a ball club. They take advantage of things like that."

After being a featured part of the Tide offense during spring, Williams interestingly was used very little against MTSU. "There wasn't a whole lot (last Saturday)," he acknowledged. "But it doesn't matter to me. We won the game. I'm not worried about how much I play. I just want to win."

It's probably a safe bet that Williams will be more involved in the Tide offense this week than last.

Is it possible that Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione was holding back a bit, being careful not to show too much of his offensive hand to the Sooner coaches?

"Naaah," Williams replied with a smile. "Coach Fran would never do something like that. He's not that kind of guy. No sir; no sir."

What does Franchione have to say on the subject? When asked yesterday whether or not fans would see more of Williams the second week than the first, Franchione smiled and replied, "They could."

Whether Alabama attacks the Sooners with one-back, two-backs, A-Backs--or even a humpback--gaining yardage against arguably the best defense in college football will not be easy.

But Williams likes his team's chances. "There's no doubt--no doubt we can match up. We can play on the same field with these guys. It's not like they're invincible. They're a great team, well coached and they're very disciplined.

"But that's not to say that they can't be beaten."

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