A 6-foot-3, 225-pound redshirt freshman, Greg Williams played extensively against Bowling Green when fifth-year senior Adam Gunn was injured, and he is expected to start a second straight game when Pittsburgh (1-1) plays host to Iowa (3-0) Saturday at noon at Heinz Field.
"I hope he's ready to show what he can do,'' Pitt defensive coordinator Phil Bennett said. "I think that Greg, (Tuesday) was a practice that the focus was much better ... and he was very conscientious in getting the things done that we needed to be done. So, I think he's made some improvement, and I think that Austin has made some improvement.''
When redshirt junior Shane Murray was injured in the preseason, fifth-year senior Austin Ransom was moved from wideout and started the opening two games at weak-side linebacker. Williams was moved to the strong side to shore up that outside spot.
Pitt linebackers coach Joe Tumpkin noted that moves with Ransom and Williams, as well as others in the linebacking corps -- redshirt freshmen Max Gruder and Brandon Lindsey moving from middle to strong-side linebacker and strong-side to the middle, respectively -- were made to benefit the team. The move with Ransom was made because he's an upperclassman.
Williams actually was a running back as a freshman, and one year ago was the No. 3 tailback when Pitt traveled to Michigan State. However, he moved to strong-side linebacker in the spring. He was switched to the weak side when training camp began, but he got a crash course in strong-side linebacking when Gunn suffered a fractured vertebra in his neck.
"I was upset a little bit when they moved me from running back to defense,'' Williams said. "But once they moved me over and I learned the plays, it got a little easier. And since I already had played some at running back, I was able to read opposing offenses a little better. I knew more what was going on.
"It's been a little rough on me, but with Adam being hurt, he really has helped me out with some things. And Coach Tumpkin, he has me in here every morning working on some plays and techniques. (And) with Adam beside me it really helped me out. So, things are going pretty good, and I'm working hard every day to get better.''
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt believed that Williams has made progress, but added that it was no big deal to flip-flop spots for any of the backers.
"Ever since I've been running this defensive scheme all our linebackers have been interchangeable,'' Wannstedt said. "It was the same thing when I was at Miami (university). ... Last year, Adam was our backup at (weak-side) and (middle) linebacker. So, I don't think it's that Greg doesn't know what to do. He just needs playing time.''
Williams struggled through a freshman season where he was a little homesick, being far away from his Naples, Fla. home for the first time in his life. And then this past training camp, he was a little banged up among other things.
"There was a lot of stuff going on back home that threw me off a little bit, too,'' Williams said. "So, I had good days and I had bad days. But now that everybody is depending on me, because I have to step up after Adam got hurt. So, I'm doing a lot better now than I was in training camp.
"And everything is better back home. It was difficult for me ... when my mom, my grandfather and little sister are (in Naples) and going through something, and I can't just jump on a plane to fly home, but I'm not homesick too much anymore. I've been getting around and hanging around with everybody else a lot more. So, it's been good. It's going a lot better.''
The Williams family will be able to watch their boy face Iowa this week, since the game will be nationally televised by ESPN 2, and they'll see him play in person for the first time when Pitt faces South Florida Oct. 2 in Tampa.
"I was a little nervous the first two games, and I let their lines push me around too much,'' Williams said. "But this game, with Iowa as a powerhouse offense and a lot bigger linemen, I have to work on my technique a lot better to get my hands and feet in the right spots. So, that's what I've been doing.
"Technique is very important when they're 300-something and me at 225. So, it's different. I've been watching a lot of film to see the gaps and where I need to be. I thought playing linebacker was a lot easier than running back, because you have to slow down and read everything at running back. But (playing) linebacker, I could play that a lot faster.''
And that finally could lead to a breakout game for Williams.
Williams Ready To Run
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