Two Starters, One Position

FAYETTEVILLE — Cedric Washington is a 22-year-old senior. Damian Williams, on the other hand, is an 18-year-old freshman.

Washington enjoyed what Arkansas coach Houston Nutt described as perhaps his best preseason camp. Williams, meanwhile, had a rough introduction to college football.

Washington has a thick body. Williams, on the contrary, is long and lanky.

But as different as Washington and Williams are, the two wide receivers share something in common: They're both Arkansas' starting flanker.

And in an fitting twist, they each claim that they hadn't heard about their roles as co-starters until reporters brought it up following Thursday's practice.

"Honestly, I didn't even know," Williams said, laughing. "Ya'll told me."

Said Washington: "Actually, I still don't even know anything about it."

When Nutt released his team's depth chart Thursday, one of the bigger surprises was that Washington and Williams were both listed as the starting wide receiver opposite junior Marcus Monk.

Washington started most of last season, and heading into his senior season, he was considered the favorite to earn the starting flanker job — on a solo basis.

But Williams, the former Springdale High star, shook off what he admits was a "bad" first day of practice to impress Nutt with his ability to go up against bigger cornerbacks and beat them for the football.

"I worked hard all summer, and I think I deserve to be out there," Williams said. "But at the same time, Cedric Washington has done a great job, as well. So, I think either way we go, we can't go wrong."

Williams admits he has come a long way since Aug. 5 — his first practice at Arkansas — when he had trouble just getting off the line of scrimmage.

The 6-foot-1, 188-pound freshman dropped several passes on his first day, and he had an even tougher time going up against cornerbacks who are much more physical than the ones Williams was accustomed to facing in high school.

"Chris Houston and Matterral Richardson ate him at the line of scrimmage on the first day," Nutt said of Williams. "And I remember him being very, very down about it.

"But that's what the good ones do, though; they go work on it, they don't sulk about it, they find a way to get off the line of scrimmage at a higher level of play."

Williams' second day of practice went a bit smoother, and his quickness and fearlessness to catch the ball started to show after he got adjusted to the more physical college game.

"I'd like to think that I can go out there and contribute as much as I can," Williams said. "And when there is a big-time situation out there, hopefully, (quarterback Robert Johnson) will feel comfortable enough to give me the ball."

Washington, meanwhile, came into the start of preseason practices feeling much quicker than he did last season when caught 27 passes for 365 yards and one touchdown.

In addition, the back injury that bothered Washington in the spring and for much of summer has not prevented him from making an impression on Arkansas' coaches.

"He had probably his best camp by the far; I'm talking about his entire career," Nutt said. "I've been real proud of his attitude. He's doing an excellent job. I think he's right where he needs to be; he just needs to keep doing that."

Washington said he doesn't feel disrespected at all with sharing the starting flanker job with Williams. Whatever is best for the team, he says.

"He's performing," Washington said of Williams. "I mean, we're all performers out here. We're just out here to try to win. Whatever helps the team win."

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