Making A Push

With the loss of both starting cornerbacks from a season ago, defensive backs coach Tony Gibson is looking for new starters, as well as quality depth, from his roster of players. One of several players trying to crack the depth chart is Highland Springs' Larry Williams.

As a true freshman last year, Williams showed the tools and ability to possibly avoid a redshirt season. However, a severe and nagging hamstring injury (one of several on the Mountaineer team in 2003) caused him to miss a substantial portion of fall practice, and thus relegated him to a redshirt role.

For someone accustomed to playing and starring on the field (Williams was a Virginia all-state selection at three different positions) the adjustment was a difficult one. However, Williams, whose upbeat attitude is evident to even the casual observer, chose to look at the injury and subsequent redshirt in a different manner.

"It was real frustrating, but sometimes, things happen for a reason. I just took it that way, and thought maybe it just wasn't my time," the 6-1, 190-pound cornerback observed. "So, I stayed on the sidelines, but I still tried to get better, and cheered on my teammates.

"You can take an injury as a negative, but I tried to view it as a positive. You don't want to dwell on it. I looked at it as the chance to get in the weight room, and get in the film room, and just do my best."

Such an outlook is rare among any college student, much less a true freshman battling to establish his place on the team. However, even a brief conversation with Williams shows equal parts of maturity, confidence and determination that should out him right in the thick of the battle for playing time at the corner position. His outlook on practice shows that he's serious about improving and getting on the field this year.

"You have to come out and focus and have your mind set on one thing, and that's getting better every day. Every day," Williams repeated with determination. "The first couple days I was lost, but I think I am catching on. Once you get out here, you just have to have fun."

Of course, it's not an easy road that the young defensive back will travel. While the Big East boasts a number of dangerous wideouts, Williams first has to battle a group of tall, fast, and generally experienced pass catchers in practice.

Although Williams has good height for a corner, he's still at a size disadvantage when going up against a Chris Henry (6-5), Miquelle Henderson (6-2), Eddie Jackson (6-4) or Rayshawn Bolden (6-4). True to his nature, though, Williams views that as just another obstacle to be overcome.

"It's tough in a way [to cover those guys], but you can't look at it like that. You have to look at it like you can shut anybody down if you put your mind to it," Williams said, espousing the power of positive thinking. If you do that, you are capable of doing anything."

He adds, however, that the ability possessed by the rangy pass catchers is very good.

"It's like facing Jerry Rice or something," Wiliams said with a wry laugh. "They are true talents. They are something special, and going against them makes all of the DBs better."

Williams has been running with the second team so far, and has gotten plenty of chances to show his ability. He will be battling with players such as Anthony Mims, Davanzo Tate and Thandi Smith for playing time. And while he's anxious to get between the lines and become a regular for the Mountaineers, he remains a team guy first and foremost.

"Everybody wants to start and get that TV time, but I just want to see the field. Anything that I can do to help the team get better, I'll do."

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