Quiet Strength

West Virginia cornerback Larry Williams isn't cut from the same brash mold as many players at his position, but the senior defender, who is battling to keep his starting job, doesn't shy away from competition either.

"I'm not trying to be the center of attention," said Williams, who is by nature more reserved than teammates such as Antonio Lewis. "I just want to do my job and do my best for the team. That's the kind of guy I am. I'm not going to be saying, ‘Hey hey hey, look at me.' I just want to do what's best for the team."

Every corner worth his salt has to have the ability to forget the last play and go on to the next one – especially when that play turns out to be a big gain for the opposition. Some players deal with that by showing verbal bravado. Others, like Williams, don't talk, but gather strength internally. The key, according to the Virginia native, is being true to oneself.

"You have to be yourself and do what the coach tells you," Williams said. "Everyone has different personalities. Mine is to stay humble and a little more quiet [than some other guys]. But I work just as hard as anyone else."

That doesn't mean, however, that Williams backs down from challenges on the field. While he doesn't respond verbally, he knows that no matter what opposing wide receivers do or what quarterbacks throw at him, he must be ready to respond.

"If the quarterback feels like he wants to try me, I'm going to do my best to stop the pass or intercept it," said Williams, who despite his quiet nature flashes a bit of heat at the thought. "I don't shy away from contact, or players, or anything."

Seeing such competitiveness in Williams is a good sign. The senior cornerback has had times when he hung his head a bit when things got bad, but has recognized that problem and is working on it, as are all of his backfield mates. Rather than playing conservatively, there's a bit more of an attitude to play more aggressively, and let the chips fall where they may.

"The biggest hurdle is confidence," Williams said of the challenges facing the secondary this year. "Sometimes we get out there and just don't want to make a mistake. The coaches want us to stay loose and just go make a play. We are athletic enough to do that."

If the secondary can play with a bit more freedom, and with a short memory, there's no doubt that the Mountaineer pass defense can improve. With as many as six corners fighting for playing time, the competition has certainly increased, and while that doesn't guarantee an increased level of efficiency, a long-standing coaching axiom holds that more competition equals better play.

For his part, Williams sees other benefits to the crowd at corner – and one fits perfectly with his outlook.

"It helps us all, because everyone is getting reps," he said of the three-deep competition, which includes Vaughn Rivers, Guesly Dervil, Ellis Lankster and Kent Richardson. The coaches feel confident in all of the guys playing. I love it. I'm not a selfish player. I want everyone to get reps so that when I'm not in the game, someone else has experience."

"The competition is great," he continued. "Everybody is trying to earn a spot, diving, laying out for the ball. It's great football. When you are playing competitive football, everyone is playing at the top of their game."

Williams, like most other seniors, also views leadership as one of his areas for improvement this year. Players in those positions are typically vocal guys, but Williams believes that he can be an effective leader while staying true to his persona.

"You just have to know your role," he said. "For me, it's more being in the role of a leader. Antonio {Lewis} and I have to step and lead more than we did last year. I'm not saying we did a bad job last year, but we could have done a better job. When young guys make a mistake, they are going to get chewed out by the coaches. You pull them aside and say, ‘It's going to be o.k.' I'll tell them to study your playbooks, and that if they need anything just ask. I try to be a friend to them, especially if they get down."


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