Cadillac Back For More In 2004

Auburn senior tailback Carnell Williams speaks candidly about the upcoming season, a new offense and playing for Coach Tommy Tuberville.

Hoover, Ala.–-Tuesday was a busy day for Auburn senior running back Carnell Williams. On his ride to SEC Media Days from Auburn he participated in a live chat on ESPN.com that had 1,050 questions posed for him to answer. Despite getting to just over 25 in a 30-minute span, the chat got Williams ready for a record crowd surrounding him as he took questions from the media on day one of the event.

Not surprisingly much of the attention was given to his chase for the Heisman Trophy and the Auburn records for rushing yards and touchdowns scored. Chasing legendary runner Bo Jackson in both areas, Williams said that he hopes that he can achieve his goals, but team goals come first for the Attalla, Ala. native. He said that handling the pressure that comes with a Heisman chase is something that doesn't concern him.

"I want to leave Auburn as the all-time leading rusher and pass Bo Jackson in touchdowns," Williams said. "Hopefully I can go after the Heisman and be thought of as one of the best backs in the country. I know in order for that to happen we have to do good as a team. If we do it as a team everything else will take care of itself. It's team first with me so I don't think all of the hype thrown my way will affect me. My teammates know that I'm a team guy."

Williams admitted that to achieve his personal goals the team must play better than it did last season when the offense struggled to get out of the starting blocks on the way to a 0-2 start. With new Coach Al Borges' offense still in the installation process, Williams said the unit is preparing to get the job done with its best players on the field.

"You're going to see me and Ronnie in the ball game about 75 or 80 percent of the time whether it's in split backs or the I formation," Williams said. "There is going to be a lot more misdirection, a lot more play action. There will be a lot of Ronnie out in the flats, myself out in the flats one on one with a linebacker. There is also going to be a lot more passes thrown down field, deep balls."

Williams looks for yardage against Vanderbilt last season.

That's music to the ears of most Auburn fans as an offense that has been pretty much void of big plays in the passing game since the 1999 season looks to get on track in a hurry in 2004. Williams knows that the offense must come out firing to help out a defense learning on the run after losing several big names from last season.

"Last year on defense we were loaded," Williams said. "We had Karlos Dansby, Dontarrious Thomas, All-American candidates. This year I wouldn't say we were loaded, but we have players that have played and players that are hungry. They want to be coached and to get the job done the right way.

"We're up for it," Williams said of the challenge facing the offense early until the defense settles in. "We have a lot of veterans coming back. We have a senior in Jason and Ronnie and myself. Everybody on offense has played and been through the tough times. Therefore I believe we're capable of carrying the defense until they can come along."

A player Williams said people need to watch for this season is Campbell. Auburn's senior quarterback and veteran signal caller, Campbell has been through more ups and downs than most players should have to endure in a career. Because of that and a willingness to succeed Williams said that Campbell is poised to have a good year under Borges' direction.

"I think this is the right system for him," Williams said of Campbell. "He's been through so much and been criticized since he's been at Auburn, but I think this is the year that everything pays off and he starts getting praise. I think this is the right fit for him. He's throwing the deep ball more and he's just more confident throwing the ball. I know there were times when he really didn't want to make a certain throw, but now he'll take chances. His confidence has risen."

Williams and the Tigers have prepared all winter and summer for the 2004 season with a vigor he said is unlike any he remembers since he's been at Auburn. Much of the reason for that is the sour taste left in the players mouths after finishing 8-5 last season, but a big part of their willingness to sacrifice is what happened to Coach Tommy Tuberville at the end of the season.

By now it has become common knowledge of the late night plane flight to Louisville by Auburn officials to court Coach Bobby Petrino. Williams said that one move was something he could never imagine happening, but what it and the subsequent weeks that followed did was bring this team closer together and prepare them well for their future at Auburn and beyond.

"I know a lot of folks look at it as a negative situation, but as a team it brought us together," Williams said. "As a team we rallied around Coach Tub. He really showed what kind of person he was and his true character came out. It brought us real close. It was hard to believe, but I guess that's the things that go on in college football. It was kind of mind boggling with us, but we put that in the past and we're moving on.

"For somebody to go behind your back and try to hire somebody and you don't want to leave the team, you want to stay," Williams added. "I believe he did the majority of that because of the players and the Auburn family. He didn't only look at himself. I know it hurt him and it was tough, but he looked out for us because he knew we wanted him to stay. He decided not to leave us and that showed us what kind of guy he is."

If the group had been successful in acquiring Petrino then we probably wouldn't have been talking to Williams on Tuesday. After signing with Auburn because of the straightforwardness of Tuberville and his staff, Williams said that had they not been back for the 2004 season then he likely would have taken his game to the NFL.

"I possibly would have been gone because I came in with Coach Tub and I know what kind of guy he is," Williams said. "He's an outstanding guy. If he was going to leave I would have pretty much left. He's one of those player coaches. You can joke around with him and wrestle with him. You can tell him things you wouldn't normally tell him a coach. That's just the kind of guy he is."

No matter what the reasoning Williams, Brown and defensive back Carlos Rogers all returned to Auburn for their senior seasons to try to win a championship. Despite talking up Coach Tuberville and showing how much he cares for his coach, Williams said that playing for the coach is only one of the goals of the team in 2004. An ultimate love for the place they now think of as home is as big of a reason as any.

"We're playing for him because of what kind of person he is," Williams said. "Not only Coach Tub, but the whole coaching staff. We're also playing for the fans, the school and the Auburn tradition."


Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories