The junior tailback from Etowah High School in Attalla, Ala., will get his first chance to line up on the same field with Tennessee as the unbeaten Vols take on the 2-2 Tigers at 6:45 p.m. on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"I was so close to going there," Williams says. "For me to meet up with those guys and have a chance to play against them, it is going to be exciting out there on Saturday."
Carnell Williams is on the move at Tuesday's football practice.
The Volunteers will bring a 4-0 record and a No. 7 national ranking to Auburn this weekend. Auburn, which struggled to start the season with losses to Southern Cal and Georgia Tech, has evened its record at 2-2 with victories over Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky. The Vols will be the most talented opponent for Auburn since the opening day setback to Southern Cal. Saturday's game will also be the first Auburn vs. Tennessee game in four years.
Auburn vs. Tennessee games were formerly an eagerly anticipated early season SEC showdown. However, the Tigers vs. Vols matchup was a victim of the SEC adding Arkansas and South Carolina a decade ago and going to a divisional format.
Saturday's first appearance by Tennessee in Auburn since 1998 is a tough ticket and Auburn players, including Williams, can already sense the anticipation over the return of the old rivalry. "It is real exciting because, for one, Tennessee has a great football team," Williams says. "They have great tradition, players and coaching. It is going to be a challenge for us as a team to go out and do what we need to do."
What Auburn needs to do on offense includes running the football like the Tigers did last Saturday in a 48-3 rout of Western Kentucky. "We are basically feeling good going into the stretch," Williams says of the tailbacks where he and Ronnie Brown are considered co-starters. "We are all pretty much healthy. We are starting to run the ball a lot better. We are starting to hit the holes better, making guys miss so as a whole we are all looking forward to this game."
Williams, who was heavily recruited by colleges around the nation, gave a verbal commitment to Tennessee running backs coach Woody McCorvey before changing his mind to become a Tiger. A recruiting visit by Tuberville and almost his entire coaching staff helped turn the Cadillac south towards Auburn. A recruiting trip to Auburn put the Tigers in the driver's seat in the battle for the most heavily recruited Alabama high school running back since Darrell "Lectron" Williams picked the Tigers over Alabama a generation earlier.
"When I came down here on my official visit and met the coaches and players, the Auburn fans and things like that, it just felt more at home," Williams says. "Coach Tub and his staff just kind of embraced me like this was going to be the best place for me."
Williams says Auburn being the in-state school in the competition had no factor in his decision. "When I came out of high school it didn't really matter if I stayed at home or not, I chose Auburn because it is a great school. It is where I wanted to be."
Williams goes into the Tennessee game as Auburn's leading rusher with 217 yards on 52 carries and he has scored two touchdowns. He played briefly last Saturday after injuring his ankle in the second quarter vs. Western Kentucky. He was back at practice on Sunday and again on Tuesday and moving without any problems. "It is doing fine," Williams says. "Saturday I just tweaked it a little bit and got a real bad bruise. Other that than it is doing fine."
After struggling in the first two games, particularly on offense, the Tigers still have something to prove heading into Saturday's showdown with Tennessee. Williams says there is no chance the offense won't be hungry after piling up 93 points the last two games.
In the next four games, the Tigers will play two other Top 10 teams in addition to Tennessee with road trips to Arkansas and LSU. "We feel like we are better team than we showed the first two weeks," Williams says. "This is a great chance to show everybody that we belong in the same group with those guys."