“(Williams) is light years ahead because (last year) during practice I was standing behind him reminding him of his assignments,” Craig said. “He can in play in the X position, the 9 position as we call it, towards the end of spring we moved him to the slots.
“During the summer we were debating whether or not to play him in the slot or the outside receiver, we moved him to the slot receiver, now we moved him back to the boundary receiver," Craig pointed out. "He has done a great job of learning the offense. He has a better understanding of what is going on and he’s light years ahead of where he was as far as understanding the game. His talent level is his talent level, that’s undeniable.”
Playing in just 10 games last season, including missing the bowl against Wisconsin because of a suspension, Williams still led the team with 45 receptions for 730 yards and five touchdowns despite Auburn running the football almost two/thirds of the time. Labeled as perhaps the top college receiver in the country, Williams will feel plenty of pressure to top his performance from last season, but Craig said the goal is just to improve and help the team win.
“I expect Duke come in and be himself,” Craig said. “You can’t come in and put these expectations on these kids they can’t obtain. You have to go out and teach them the fundamentals of the game, give him his role, go out and let him play football. He doesn’t have to go out and win a national championship for us every snap, he just needs to do his assignment.
“If he can do that he can be the player that we need him to be," Craig added. "I’m not putting, setting goals for him per se as Duke you need to go out and do this, I just want him to be the best player he can be. If Duke can be the best player he can be, he’s probably going to be the best wide receiver in the country.”
For Williams to become the player that Craig and the coaching staff is looking for it means more than just producing on the field. One of the veterans on the team and a player who turned down a shot to play in the NFL to return for his second year on the Plains, Williams has done the right things so far to show that he’s ready to take things to the next level and that’s music to the ears of Craig.
“Duke is a great football player but his leadership role has gotten a lot better,” Craig said. “He is maturing as a person, he’s making an effort to do that, and I’ve seen a big change in him."
Williams caught 45 passes for 730 yards and five touchdowns last season. Only Sammie Coates, with 741 yards, had more as a receiver than Williams, who led the Tigers in receptions and TD catches.
“I’m excited about him coming back, not because it’ll help us win games, but I’m excited about him coming back as his development as a person off the field and I think he’s made tremendous strides," said Craig, who added, "I’m real proud of him.”