Smaller guy, bigger role

Tennessee fans will be seeing a lot more of Dan Williams this fall, even though there's a lot less of him to see.

Signed out of Memphis East High School in 2005, he showed up on campus that summer weighing 357 pounds. Two years and nearly 60 dropped pounds later, Dan Williams will make his first career start in Saturday night's home opener against Southern Miss.

Now checking in at a relatively svelt 300 pounds, the 6-3 sophomore has supplanted senior J.T. Mapu as the first-team right defensive tackle. Basically, as Williams' weight has gone down, his quickness, stamina and production have gone up.

Defensive coordinator John Chavis conceded that Williams' extreme makeover is a credit to him "and I think it's a credit to (defensive line coach) Dan Brooks for making sure those things happened."

Because he was grossly overweight, Williams redshirted and dieted as a freshman in 2005.

"When I first got here I was 357," he recalled this week. "I went down gradually. By December of '05 I was down to like 315. Then in the spring the first year I got down to about 306. That summer I went back up to 315, then when the season started I was about 310."

Even at 310 pounds, Williams wasn't much of a factor in the fall of 2006. He recorded just two tackles in 13 games, although one of those was a sack. He also registered a quarterback hurry.

Determined to make his mark in 2007, Williams said he finally came to the realization: "These pounds have to leave."

They did. More running and less eating enabled him to shed another 10 pounds. So far, he has kept the weight off.

"I eat a lot smarter," he said. "Sometimes I still eat fatty foods but I eat smaller portions, then make sure I do some type of cardio (workout) or some running or something physical to burn it off."

Asked what he did against Cal that led the coaches to reward him with a starting assignment, Williams shrugged.

"To tell the truth, I honestly do not know," he said. "I thought I played fairly well. It's their decision, and I'm honored. If they feel me playing is the best, then I'm thankful."

Asked for his reaction upon learning of his promotion to first team, Williams smiled.

"Kind of surprised," he said. "It's a pleasant surprise and I'm thankful."

Williams wasn't exactly a force against Cal. Then again, none of Tennessee's tackles were. Demonte Bolden recorded two stops, including one tackle for loss. Mapu, Williams and Walter Fisher chipped in one tackle each. None of Tennessee's defenders got close enough to Cal's quarterback to register a hurry, let alone a sack.

"We probably didn't expect them to keep as many people in (on pass protection)," Williams explained. "They kept six or seven people in (to block) every time. We've got to work harder to get off double-teams. That's probably the biggest trouble spot we had."

Actually, the biggest trouble spot was trying to bring down Cal tailback Justin Forsett. He bounced off Vol defenders like a human pinball.

"Forsett is a good running back," Williams said. "He broke a lot of tackles. It comes down to tackling, basically. Looking at film, we might miss two or three tackles each run. He just broke through ‘em, so it's up to us to come out here and get better at tackling."

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