Quiet Courtney Williams making lots of noise

PULLMAN -- Courtney Williams is a contradiction. Quiet and self-effacing off the field -- at least in the face of the media -- the freshman sparkplug makes all kinds of noise between the lines. That was certainly the case last week, when Williams racked up five special teams tackles against Idaho. Afterwards, coach Bill Doba acknowledged that future opponents will be keeping their eyes peeled for the man who looks like WSU's next budding special teams stud.

Williams earned the Assassin and Game Breaker weekly awards for his work against Idaho, and was nominated for Pac-10 special teams player of the week. But to say Williams appears shy at times would be an understatement.

When surrounded by reporters, even his body language silently screams; "Can I leave now?" And yet this version of Courtney Williams seems completely unrelated to the one who was all over the field last Thursday. The one who, after blowing up Idaho kick returners left and right, followed up each effort with his high-energy, chest-thumping celebrations.

An educated guess for the reason behind such opposing forms of expression could be that Williams -- or any player, for that matter -- has to get a little extra pumped up for special teams duty. After all, they don't call it "kamikaze" and "assassin" work for nothing.

"Yeah, you have to get a little more hyped," Williams said. "It's easier than defense, though. You're more free to mess up. If you mess up on 'D' everyone's going to know."

Soon after his arrival in Pullman, Williams was moved to the secondary when coaches realized he was probably too light (6-1, 193 pounds) to play linebacker in the Pac-10.

He isn't high on the defensive backfield's depth chart at the moment, but Williams is a starter on three special teams units: punt coverage, kickoff coverage and punt return. After his standout showing against the Vandals, he's been moved to one of the "gunner" positions on the punt coverage team; in other words, coaches have already pegged him as a potentially big-time playmaker -- markedly similar to an unstoppable Jason Hill his freshman season of '03.

It's rare for a true freshman to play on punt coverage at Washington State -- that unit is nearly always comprised of veterans. Rarer still, is to be one of the gunners. But that's exactly where Williams finds himself heading into Friday night's game at Nevada.

"It was fun," Williams said of the Idaho game. "Just to get on the field and play was fun. Offense, defense, special teams, I don't really care."

A STAR LINEBACKER who lined up off the edge much of the time at Dorsey High in Los Angeles, Williams notched a Madden video game-like 27 sacks as a senior. He was also a prep track star -- his personal-best time of 47.28 seconds in the 400-meter dash was at one point the fifth-best in the country among high schoolers earlier this year.

Although Williams said he wasn't heavily recruited as a sprinter, Baylor and WSU were two of the colleges open to him playing both sports. Williams has met with WSU track coach Rick Sloan, and said he will consider turning out for the team in the spring, at least until spring football practice begins.

"Football comes first," Williams said assuredly.

THE WILLIAMS FILE:
* He continues a succession of great Cougars who prepped at Dorsey High. Among them: record-setting running backs Bernard Jackson and Michael Black; two Palouse Posse mainstays, Greg Burns and Dwayne Sanders; and early '90s offensive lineman Ron Lewis.

* As a prep senior he was picked All-Central City, named a Los Angeles Times All-Star and voted third-team All-State. Helped Dorsey to a 12-2 record.

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