Young Linebackers Learning The System

Williams & Williams, linebackers Antarrious and Travis Williams, are promising redshirt freshmen for the Auburn football team's defense.

Auburn, Ala.--Redshirt freshmen linebackers Travis Williams and Antarrious Williams are not related, but have been good friends since meeting on the recruiting trail as high school seniors. In fact, they are such good buddies they don't mind if people assume that they are relatives. At times, they even encourage such thinking.

"We tell a lot of people that we are related," Travis Williams says with a grin. "He is like my best friend here so we tell a lot of people that we are related. We are really close."

Antarrious Williams says much the same thing about Travis. "That is my boy," the former Shaw High of Columbus, Ga., star says. "You know, we have been friends since our recruiting visit our senior year in high school. Now we are roommates and he is a great friend of mine."

Antarrious also admits, with a big smile, that they love tricking people into believing that they are related. "Oh yeah, girls all the time," he says. "We always tell them we are cousins or brothers, anything to make them believe us."

Antarrious Williams

Williams and Williams are also having fun on the field where they have earned praise for their hard work from head coach Tommy Tuberville. They are the second team strongside and weakside linebackers behind Karlos Dansby and Dontarrious Thomas, respectively. So far this season the duo has combined to make 12 stops in relief for the talented duo of Dansby and Thomas, who are perhaps the best two players on the Auburn defense this season.

Prior to their strong starts in 2002, Williams and Williams used last season as a redshirt developmental year. Travis, a record-setting linebacker at Spring Valley High in South Carolina, says that extra year of preparation prepared him to be ready for his role on this year's team. "It helped me to learn college football," he explains. "It's not like high school anymore. You have got to play your role--everybody is a role player and you have got to get used to that."

Both were undersized to be college linebackers when they arrived on campus in August 2001. The added size has made a positive difference as has their additional football knowledge. "I have got a little more experience and I have also gotten stronger and faster as the season has gone on and those things have helped me a lot," says Antarrious, who is up to 205 pounds, about 20 more than he weighed when he signed with the Tigers.

Travis has also gotten significantly bigger, too. He is up to 211 pounds. Early last fall, he weighed in the 180s before getting on Kevin Yoxall's strength training program.

After starting the last two games with Thomas was recovering from a hyper-extended knee, Antarrious is expected to miss Thursday's game against Mississippi State. He suffered a knee injury in the second half against Vanderbilt last Saturday. "It is just a little minor injury, a sprained MCL, but I will be all right though," he says. He is expected to be full speed in time for the Syracuse game.

Travis Williams

Both say that they really like the new aggressive defensive scheme that they are running this season under Gene Chizik's direction. And, Travis says, the reason is very simple. "I like all of the blitzes. We come from all over the field."

Even with the aggressive style of Chizik's defense, Williams notes that it is still an assignment-oriented scheme and that it was difficult to learn at first. "You are so used to making plays. Now you have to depend on all 11 guys and handle your responsibility and not get out of position. You have to be disciplined when you are out there."

One other problem that has troubled the Auburn linebackers so far this season has been picking up the opposing running backs in pass coverage underneath the zone. Antarrious notes that coach Joe Whitt has been working hard with them to make sure they get better on their assignments as the season progresses. "We watch a lot of film with Coach Whitt and we have a lot of drills that we use to help us work on that."

Whitt says both linebackers are works in progress and are still in a learning mode, but says he is enjoying having a chance to coach the redshirt freshmen. Travis says he and his buddy are enjoying being a part of the 2002 team. "Everybody likes the snaps out there," he says. "I just thank God that I am out there because there are a lot of people that want to be out there. You know, I just thank God for waking up everyday so I am just happy, living a dream."

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