Brian Kelly and his staff often talk about the "next man in." The idea is to have depth at every position so having an experienced player like senior Anthony Williams competing for a starting safety spot certainly furthers the cause of adding depth in the defensive backfield. Right now, there's Haruki Nakamura and everyone else. And the everyone else usually consists of Cedric Tolbert, Aaron Webster and Williams.
After his 2005 season in which Williams was second on the squad in tackles with 66 stops in eleven games, the sophomore outside linebacker looked to be a mainstay on an improving defense. But junior college transfer Leo Morgan got the starting nod at the "sam" linebacker spot in 2006, and Williams' tackles dropped to a paltry two. Anthony talked about the sudden change. "Leo Morgan came in and played really well. I couldn't get too upset because the team had a good year last year and went to a bowl game."
With fellow senior Leo Morgan returning this year,
Anthony had an idea that he felt might get him back onto the field in 2007. "I went to Coach Tresey and asked him if
I could play safety again."
Williams came to the Bearcats as a 190 pound safety from
In order to play linebacker, Anthony had to try and look the part so he got his weight up to 220 pounds, but after getting the okay to return to safety this year, Williams knew he had to shed that weight. He presently weighs only 205 pounds, but that number still makes him the heaviest defensive back.
The recycled safety hopes to team with Haruki Nakamura to give the Bearcats two of the most punishing hitters in Big East secondaries this fall. "Everyone knows Haruki brings the wood, and I want to prove the same thing this year."
Position coach, Kerry Coombs, talked about Anthony's progress at safety and the recent move to insert him into the #1 defensive unit. "He was there on Saturday, and he's been doing a really good job. I think our philosophy and anyone's philosophy is you win with seniors. He's learned the position since the spring and worked real hard in the summer. He plays fast and physical. He has a good concept of what we're doing, and he's going to be a real force back there."
The promotion of Williams also bumps Brad Jones into possibly seeing more playing time. Anthony had been the nickel back, but if he ends up starting at safety, Brad Jones could take his place, but that isn't the only option according to Coach Coombs. "Brad Jones has had a good camp, but Evan Sparks does a good job too. We could also move Anthony to the nickel and bring in another safety. There are a lot of things we could do."
Claiming a safety spot only ten days before the opener gave Williams optimism that he'll get his first start in two years. "They haven't really named starters yet, but I hope they have me penciled in as one." But Coach Coombs says a lot can still happen between now and August 30th and beyond. "We're in a situation where it's very fluid through the first few games of the year where a lot of kids are going to play. I really think depth is our strength, not just in the secondary but across the board on this team. We've asked every secondary player to know at least two positions so we feel confident they'll be able to move from spot to spot and allow us to have our best four kids on the field. But we haven't named starters yet."
Williams has personal and team goals for the 2007 season. "I'd like to be a starter again and have the team go to a bigger bowl than last year."