Williams Makes Case For Bigger Role

FAYETTEVILLE — D.J. Williams is not one of those old-school tight ends who's slow, can't catch and is inserted into the lineup only when Arkansas needs another blocker.

The sophomore is a legitimate offensive threat, something first-year coach Bobby Petrino can never have too many of in his pass-happy system.

Williams showed glimpses last season that he could get open and make the tough catch, and he has already made a strong case this spring that he deserves an increased role in 2008.

Perhaps it was a good thing he decided not to transfer after all.

"He has always had great skill level, and now we're just in a system where he's going to have a chance to get the ball," said Arkansas running backs coach Tim Horton, who also works with the tight ends.

"He's going to be a very integral part of the offense, and D.J. Williams will help us win football games."

If Arkansas' first scrimmage Sunday was any indication, there will be more passes thrown to Williams than in 2007 when he had only five receptions for 94 yards.

Williams tied wide receiver London Crawford for most catches in the scrimmage with five, and the 6-foot-2, 250-pound tight end gained 36 yards simply by getting open and snatching passes in between defenders.

Williams is hoping to have another strong showing this afternoon when the Razorbacks take part in their second spring scrimmage.

"We didn't throw as much last year and we're still going to run the ball, but (the new coaches) are giving me plus all the other receivers an opportunity," Williams said. "And it's our decision or chance to make good from it."

Williams, however, came close to not being with the Razorbacks this spring. He considered transferring to Ole Miss after former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt resigned to take over the Rebels.

Williams was close with Nutt and his family, and the coaching change was hard on the Little Rock native. It was only a matter of time before word spread on Internet message boards and sports-talk radio shows that Williams was considering following Nutt to Ole Miss.

The sophomore was inundated with so many phone calls from people wondering about his future that he had to change his cell number.

"One thing I learned that a whole lot of people deal with is change, and that's just something that takes time to adjust to," Williams said.

In the end, Williams said he couldn't leave his teammates, whom he considers to be like family. He was also pleased that Petrino hired Horton to be on his new coaching staff.

Horton and Williams have a strong relationship, dating back to when Horton was an assistant at Kansas State and he tried to sign the tight end.

Petrino, for one, is glad Williams decided to stay.

"D.J.'s a good football player. I've got a lot of respect for him," Petrino said. "We certainly need to get him the ball."

D.J. Williams

Position: Tight end

Size: 6-foot-2, 250 pounds

Hometown: Little Rock

Notable: Williams started two games last season at tight end, and finished with five catches for 94 yards. He averaged 18.8 yards per reception, the best among those Arkansas players who saw action in at least 10 games last season. Williams, whose first name is David, made a mark at Little Rock's Central Arkansas Christian as a linebacker.

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