Practice Field Player to Watch: Keldrick Williams

Mobile native Keldrick Williams had a solid day on Monday. Keldrick has been relegated to special teams in 2002, but the loss of Gerald Riggs Jr. puts him right back in the mix at tailback.

After spring practice had concluded, Keldrick Williams had to like where he stood in the tailback derby. He closed out spring drills with a 14 carry, 69 yard rushing performance in the Orange and White game on April 14 of this year. His totals led all backs on the afternoon. He must have been pleased going into the summer and the looming 2002 season. Then super prep Gerald Riggs Jr. enrolled at Tennessee in August.

Williams quickly slipped on the depth chart and in the course of a few weeks, was relegated to the scout team. It appeared that Keldrick would earn his letter by playing the part of Dwone Hicks, Earnest Graham, Musa Smith and Heisman front-runner Willis McGahee. It appeared Keldrick's game action would be very limited.

This past weekend Riggs broke a finger in his left hand and will now miss the remainder of the season. With news of that happening, combined with Derrick Tinsley's fumble problems, Keldrick Williams entered the mix once again yesterday afternoon.

At first it appeared he would not see many touches, then a slight break of luck. Jabari Davis trips running through the line and Randy Sanders yells for Keldrick to step in. Williams then proceeded to rattle off short runs against a scout team defense that were very sharp. Williams not only ran the ball three straight times, he continued to split equal action with Davis and starter Cedric Houston. Granted his production came in drills that where not full contact, he greatly showed better than Houston and Davis. It is hard to underscore Houston's last couple of games (at least 100 yards in 3 straight games), but the offensive line has been a big part of those numbers.

This does not in anyway mean Keldrick will get 20 carries this weekend or led the team in rushing yardage, but it may be a foreshadowing of a strong closing effort by Keldrick in the winding down 2002 season. In the Tennessee offense, where running the football is a necessity, Phillip Fulmer will rotate tailbacks without even giving it a second thought. So if No. 28 comes running off the sideline on Saturday and has a solid game against Vanderbilt, it didn't happen by chance. It happened because Williams worked and fought his way out there. Not to mention a little bit of luck.


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