The New Guy Has Been Around
That's the way it is for Chavis Williams, a 6-4, 235-pound senior who is projected as Alabama's starter at strongside linebacker when the Crimson Tide opens the season hosting San Jose State Saturday. Kickoff will be at 6 p.m. CDT. The only television is pay-per-view.
Williams had been listed at 223 pounds, but cites the addition of nutritionist Amy Bragg to the Alabama staff for being bigger and stronger this year.
Williams didn't come a long distance to Alabama, but he's about to make a big step. Williams prepped at Dora High School, a county north of Tuscaloosa.
In three years he has seen only occasional duty in a total of 20 games, has been involved in only five total tackles. He does have a sack, a nine-yard drop of Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper in the Tide's 34-10 win in the Georgia Dome in 2008, Williams' sophomore season. He's also had a couple of quarterback hurries. And Williams has played on special teams the past three years.
Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower said, "A lot of people don't know anything about Chavis, but he's a great linebacker. He played behind a couple of good linebackers since he's been here. He played behind Cory Reamer the past two seasons.
"I'm glad they're finally giving Chavis the chances to come out and show what he's capable of.
"I've been with Chavis, in and out with Chavis, in drills, in seven-on-seven, even during practices while I was a freshman. I'm glad he's out there. He's showed me a lot."
Obviously, he has showed Alabama's coaching staff, too.
When the official depth chart was released on Monday, Williams was listed first team at strongside linebacker, the outside linebacker spot. Alabama had experimented with several players at the position during fall camp. Jerrell Harris and Nico Johnson, both now working at inside linebacker spots, got a look at strongside.
Although Williams doesn't have a history of a lot of playing time, Hightower said the senior is a veteran. "He's one of those guys who goes hard every play," Hightower said. "He's one of the veterans on the team who, along with (safety) Mark Barron, knows the defense so well. He's a vet. I'm glad to have him out there beside me.
"There are times when I'm like, ‘What do I check to?' and Chavis knows."
Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, "Chavis has always been a guy that has high energy, high effort, always has been able to run. He's a little bit of a playmaker and has been on special teams in the past and has had some opportunities to play. He's gotten bigger and stronger. He holds the point better and has a better understanding of the defense, so he makes less mental errors. He has been in the same roll now for several years, which I think, is really helpful with him. We're pleased with the progress that he has made. His progress allowed us to move Jerrell Harris to inside linebacker. That was an area that we weren't comfortable with and Chris Jordan, Nico (Johnson), (C.J.) Mosley have done a good job there and there are a couple of others that could play, but we'll see if that is the best group in this game."
Williams called his situation "very exciting. It's a great opportunity for me to show that I can contribute to the team."
He attributes his rise to starter as "just hard work. I was raised to never give up and to just keep working." He said the competition has been good.
Williams reflected on his time in the background. "Over the years, there has been a lot of competition at linebacker," he said. "Cory Reamer, guys like Rolando (Rolando McClain). Reamer's intelligence on the field, he was like a genius out there. His head was the playbook, for real. I'm trying to learn where I can play more positions."
Although Williams didn't have a long trek to The University, he almost didn't make it.
"I didn't have an offer until Coach Saban came along," Williams said. "I was committed to Arkansas, then teams started coming on late like Auburn."
Williams understands that being listed first team on the first depth chart is not the end of his journey. "Starting doesn't mean anything," he said. "You've got to go out and play and show that you can do it, and maintain it."
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