GIDEL: Representing Duval (Co.)

This time last year, the talk of the spring surrounded arguably the most athletic member of the defensive unit literally dominating spring drills. And while, sophomore linebacker Johnny Williams admits that perhaps his play was overblown a year ago, his confidence in his own abilities has not been diminished.

At 6-foot-3 and a chisled 235 pounds of muscle, Johnny Williams was the talk of spring practice a year ago because of his overwhelming speed and quickness in comparison to the older, yet experienced surrounding cast.

Although a year has gone by and much of the hoopla surrounding his arrival has subsided, the young man from Neptune Beach (Fla.) hasn't lost his sense of reality nor his willingness to exceed the high expectations brought upon him last spring.

"I feel a lot more comfortable with the defense now," Johnny Williams said after practice. "I know, finally, what's going on and where I'm supposed to be at. I feel now, that the game is a lot more slower and its not going so fast."

It was an understandable handicap for Williams, in addition to Mikhail Mabry, two linebackers the staff elected to have grayshirt instead of enrolling in the fall with the rest of the class.

Grayshirting, now a famed process by Brooks and company, allows a recruit to delay his enrollment until January of the next year. As opposed to enrolling in the fall with the rest of his classmates, Williams became a part-time student at LCC and didn't officially enroll in school until January of 2005.

"People sometimes forget that he sat out a year, grayshirting," Linebackers coach Chuck Smith said. "I think for him and Mikhail, it was almost like learning how to play all over again."

Williams helps anchor a stacked linebacking corp where the former Duncan U Fletcher HS standout is currently running second team behind junior Joe Shuler at strong-side linebacker.

With the added competition set to arrive in the fall from a heralded freshmen class, Williams said many of the linebacking unit took it upon themselves to get better.

"I feel like all of us have been working hard, on and off the field, in the film room and everything and I think it's starting to show on the field," Williams said. "We are starting to put the pieces together now, finally, and it's all starting to make a lot more sense."

"I think the attitude is pretty good, too," the soft spoken Williams said, "we're trying to coach everybody up to be the best they can be. It doesn't matter whether they are first-team, second-team, or third-team, we're trying to help each other out. There are no individuals, anymore, everyone's looking out for each other."

Always driven by a strong desire to play professional football, Williams acknowledges that in due time, he'll be able to show his skills.

"I'm representing Duval," Williams finished, making reference to Duval Co. in Florida, home to many NFL standouts, as well as where Williams was raised.


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