Williams Earning Playing Time

FAYETTEVILLE — The thought of redshirting the 2009 season never crossed linebacker Terrell Williams' mind.

The Tulsa native knew it wouldn't be easy to earn playing time at Arkansas as a true freshman, but said he signed with the Razorbacks determined to play immediately.

"I'm a competitive guy," Williams said Wednesday. "Nothing wrong with a redshirt, but I knew once I came here I was going to be able to get a chance to play wherever I played."

Well, Williams has done better than that this week.

The former Tulsa Union High standout has suddenly become one of Arkansas' preseason surprises, moving up to the first-team defense at weakside linebacker. Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said he has been impressed with the 6-foot-2, 232-pound Williams on the practice field, so he is considering him for a starting job during the opener.

"He's a good young football player," Robinson said. "He doesn't quite know everything yet. But one thing he does, is run full speed and tackle you. He's a very productive player."

Arkansas was hoping that would be the case when it offered Williams a scholarship last year. He was recruited as an athlete after playing so many positions during his high school career, but the Razorbacks thought he'd be a good fit at linebacker.

So they've broken him in at the position and his speed, tenacity and tackling abilities have been evident.

"He played probably every position but linebacker," Arkansas linebackers coach Reggie Johnson said. "He played some quarterback, wideout, maybe some safety. Maybe.

"I know he wasn't a linebacker. But the kid is a football player and we can teach him some of the linebacker stuff."

Williams said he has been aided by some time in the weight room over the summer. He weighed 215 pounds when he arrived on campus, but is at 232 now.

Picking up the defense has been challenging, at times, but veterans Jerry Franklin and Wendel Davis have helped.

"I'm just out trying to learn," Williams said. "I have a lot of great guys around me and a lot of experienced guys.

"As a true freshman, all I can do is go out here and play as hard as I can and just learn on the way."

Arkansas wasn't shy about putting true freshmen on the field last year. Six — receivers Jarius Wright and Chris Gragg, running back Dennis Johnson, linebackers Jelani Smith and Jerico Nelson, and safety Elton Ford — started the opener and were among the 16 that played throughout the year.

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said he won't count on that many freshmen again. But several will play. Williams — who also is being groomed for a big role on special teams — is the only one working in a first-team spot this week.

It means that Williams has passed Petrino's test so far.

"Coach Petrino's approach is, we get everybody ready to play and it all shakes out over the course of camp," Johnson said. "Who can handle it? Who needs to redshirt? Who needs to play? Terrell has done a good job of studying the system and he's done a good job of coming out and performing in the scrimmages. He's shown that he is capable."

Terrell Williams

Position: Linebacker

Class: Freshman

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 232 pounds

Hometown: Tulsa

Notables: Led Tulsa Union High to a 13-1 record and a state championship as a senior. ... Recorded 105 tackles and 7 sacks during the 2008 season. ... Played quarterback, receiver and safety in high school career. ... Was a 2008 Tulsa World All-State honorable mention selection. ... Chose Arkansas over Stanford, Tennessee, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma State.

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