With much of the focus on the new offense of Coach Al Borges and reloading the defense, Williams has virtually slipped through without creating many waves or doing many interviews. That is all about to change though for the heralded senior.
A preseason All-American by just about every publication, Williams is busily preparing for the 2004 season that will be like no other in his career on the Plains. Instead of battling teammate and friend Ronnie Brown for the starting tailback job, they are both expected to be on the field the majority of the time in Borges' offense. Williams says the new offense should be fun for people to watch and the team is ready to show it to the public on Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe.
"I'm real excited," Williams says. "We've been beating up on each other on defense and offense. We're ready to hit somebody else and see if this offense is ready to go and see if it's clicking. We're going in with a lot of confidence and feel real comfortable about it."
Williams runs for yardage against Vanderbilt last season.
Something that Coach Tommy Tuberville and his staff experimented with last fall by keeping the contact on Williams and Brown to a minimum continued this year when neither Williams nor Brown scrimmaged in live action situations in the preseason. While both were hit in drills and took part in "thud scrimmage" scenarios, neither was tackled to the ground to keep them as healthy as possible for the regular season. Williams says that the lack of scrimmage time isn't anything he's concerned about as the season nears.
"I'm looking forward to delivering some blows on people--just getting back into that football mode," he says. "I have been having contact out there, but not that all-out go contact. I'm really looking forward to that this Saturday."
Last season's opener against USC had a completely different feeling than this year's game against Louisiana-Monroe, but that hasn't kept the Tigers from getting the itch to get the season under way. Despite a likely mismatch on the field, Williams says it doesn't keep the team from going out and trying to improve and they'll use the first game to get better.
"It's a lot different, but our motto as a team is to not worry about our opponents and get better from week to week," Williams says. "We know if we get better from week to week that we'll win most of our games, if not all of them."
A big change for Williams, Brown and the other running backs this season is going to be staying on the field more than in previous seasons. While either Williams or Brown have gotten the bulk of the action with fullback Brandon Johnson on the field in past years, this time around two tailbacks will be in at the same time a majority of the time. That means blocking duties for the backs, something Williams says he'll get the job done doing. "It has been a while," Williams says. "This year I'm going to have to get in that mode and I'm willing to do that."
Actually it's been since the ninth grade that Williams has been called on to block for another runner. At that time, a small freshman was helping carry the load along with big senior Derrick Nix for the Etwowah Blue Devils. Williams says that blocking for Brown will be similar to the time when he paved the way for the future Southern Miss Golden Eagle standout.
"Derrick and Ronnie are kind of similar," Williams notes. "Both are real big backs, fast, real good vision. They are real similar."
Despite the likelihood that he'll get less carries as a senior than he did last season because of splitting time with Brown, Williams says that his goals remain unchanged going into the 2004 campaign. A fan of the history of the sport, he says that he's shooting for the top and the team is the engine that will drive him there.
"I have things in mind," Williams says. "I want to pretty much be one of the best backs in the country. Hopefully, I'll lead the SEC in rushing and win the Heisman, things like that. I'm still putting the team first though. I know if we handle business then all that is going to happen."
In just four years, Williams has grown from a high school legend into a player Auburn fans will remember for years to come. That is a feeling that Williams says he will carry with him all season long, but especially that first time out of the tunnel this Saturday afternoon against Louisiana-Monroe.
"It will be different, just like my two-a-days were different from my first two-a-days," Williams says. "I know my first time running out of that tunnel as a senior, my last year, to be an Auburn Tiger and wear that orange and blue. It's a great feeling. I'm willing to lay everything on the line. I'm looking forward to it."