Steppin in a Slide Zone?

DeAngelo Williams, the Memphis Tigers' record setting running back, is having a brilliant senior campaign. It is one worthy of Heisman Trophy consideration. Totaling 1726 rushing yards along with 15 scores, Williams has carried the Tigers on his shoulders. So why have NFL scouts soured on him recently?

Williams was well on his way to becoming a late first-round selection in last April's draft.  His plans were quickly altered after suffering a broken right leg during the GMAC Bowl.

Coming into the 2005 season, Williams was the number one rated senior running back by all the major NFL scouting concerns.  He proved his leg was back to full health and turned in a splendid campaign.  Many started thinking Williams had moved into the top 20 selections of next April's draft.

So why all the negative talk about Williams lately?

NFL scouts circled Nov. 12 as a day of reckoning for Williams.  The second Saturday of November had the Memphis Tigers traveling to Knoxville to battle interstate rival Tennessee.  In the view of the NFL scouting community, the Volunteer defense would be Williams' toughest test of the past two seasons. When they left Neyland Stadium, all were disgruntled and some disgusted.

The prior week Memphis had lost to Conference USA foe UAB.  During that game Williams left the field with a sprained ankle.  On the sidelines trainers taped the ankle and Williams reentered the contest.  Williams even participated in a week of practice as the Tigers prepared to play Tennessee.  

So it came as a surprise to many when Williams suggested prior to the Tennessee game that he'd be better "coming off the bench" and preferred not to start.  Tiger coach Tommy West was so incensed he forced Williams to sit out the entire game, though sources told us Williams made several requests to enter the contest.

The box score shows Williams did not take a single hand-off against the Volunteers.

Scouts on hand were miffed Williams did not play and word is the incident has significantly damaged his draft stock.  Many now question his heart and willingness to play while injured.  Several stated Williams will fall into the late part of round one and could be the fourth back selected if the top juniors enter the draft.

What was Williams' reasoning in requesting to sit out the game's start which resulted in his benching?

Sources familiar with the Memphis program have told us they believe Williams got the advice from a family member who heard it from an agent. Coming off the bench would be the best strategy to not incur another serious injury, which Williams sustained almost a year prior. 

In the end, it could cost the talented ball carrier a ton of money.

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