Shaud's no fraud; he's real deal

NCAA sanctions. The Mike Price scandal. Three head coaches in less than two years.

Shaud Williams has endured hard times as a University of Alabama running back but he continues to thrive despite the turmoil. Through the disappointment of coach Dennis Franchione abandoning Alabama after a brief stint, through the embarrassment of Mike Price's even shorter stay as coach and through the difficulty of learning a third new offense, the senior standout has remained a highly productive and dependable offensive threat for a struggling program.

As a junior last year, Williams had to share the rushing load with others, but finished the year with an incredible yards-per-carry average of over seven yards. Needless to say, that figure led the Southeastern Conference.

Though not quite as prolific, Williams' numbers this year are still impressive. He averages well over five yards per carry through eight games. As Tennessee readies for Saturday's battle with first-year coach Mike Shula's Crimson Tide, the Vols are no doubt concentrating heavily on defending Williams.

Through eight games, Williams was averaging 111 yards per game rushing. He has rushed for 10 touchdowns. How has Williams managed to maintain such productive statistics?

''It's just one of those things,'' he said. ''I have made the most of my opportunities. We had a good backfield last year, but I took advantage of my opportunities. It's just a matter of being patient as a runner and letting the blocks set up. I just take what the defense gives me and go from there.''

Having to adjust to three different coaching personalities likely was difficult enough for Williams and the Crimson Tide. Having to change offensive schemes so regularly no doubt has been more troublesome.

But the resilient Williams has rolled with the punches, sticking it out with the program he chose and still loves.

''It's been tough, but it's the story of my life,'' Williams said. ''I have had to fight for everything. I have had obstacles to overcome.''

No player relishes the thought of absorbing three different offensive styles during a career, but Williams said he made each transition with little trouble.

''It wasn't that tough to learn the offenses,'' he said. ''It got easier over time. It actually became easier with Coach Shula's offense.''

Perhaps Williams says that because he likes Shula's offensive approach. The Crimson Tide's balance is evident after eight games. Alabama is averaging 184 yards passing per game and 161 yards rushing.

''Coach Shula's offense is a lot more balanced,'' Williams said. ''It doesn't go one way or the other. We have a chance to do a lot of things.''

Though the Crimson Tide is not satisfied with its overall performance so far, Williams believes the offense is doing its part - at least most of the time. He says there is room for plenty of improvement.

''We have had our moments, but we have had some disappointing times, too,'' he said. "We have been a little average so far. We've got to get it turned around. We have to execute better."

There is no doubt Williams' teammates have the utmost respect for him. Backup quarterback Brandon Avalos, who has had to fill in in recent weeks for injured starter Brodie Croyle, has been thankful for Williams' presence.

''Shaud has made my job real easy,'' he said. ''Shaud is a great runner. He runs really hard and he has a great heart. I just feel great when the running game is going.''

In fairness to Alabama, the quarterback situation has been anything but stable in recent weeks. A shoulder injury has limited Croyle's playing time of late, and backups Spencer Pennington and Avalos have been forced into action. Neither has been a world beater in the passing game.

''We have been balanced when Brodie was in the game,'' Williams said. ''We have had our share of throwing the ball and running the ball.

''It's not been tough to have three quarterbacks. We all have confidence in those three guys. We think they can get the job done.''

As for his own play, Williams is his own worst critic.

''I feel I have played OK,'' he said. ''There have been times when I could have done better. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I am tougher on myelf than anyone else. I can still play better.''

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