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August 8, 2011

A proven blocker, Williams wants to shine as a receiver

TUSCALOOSA | You can't miss Michael Williams on the football field.

The Pickens County High School graduate from Reform stands a full 6-foot-6 and is a wide-shouldered 269 pounds.

Williams, a junior tight end, is hoping University of Alabama quarterbacks can't miss him this season.

"He's a 6-6 target that really creates mismatches for everybody," freshman quarterback Phillip Sims said. "There's no safety that's that tall or big, no linebacker that can run like him."

To date, Williams has been a valuable contributor as a blocker for the Crimson Tide. He has just 11 career receptions, however, including eight last season for 100 yards and a touchdown. He yearns to play a bigger part in the passing game.

"I've probably been saying this forever," Williams said, "now it's time to become dominant, put everything together and become a dominant tight end.

"As a tight end you've got to block and catch, so I think it's one of the greatest and toughest positions to play. You have to do it all - you have to block a 300-pound defensive lineman and you have to beat a linebacker who runs a 4.5 or 4.6 (-second 40-yard dash) on a route, so it's all about putting everything together to try to become a complete tight end."

With two inexperienced quarterbacks competing for the starting job, this might be Williams' time to shine. He presents an easy-to-find target that may be easier for Sims and AJ McCarron to see as they adjust to the speed of the college game.

"We'd like to be a comfort zone for these quarterbacks," said fellow tight end Brad Smelley, an American Christian Academy graduate, "but they have all the potential in the world. They're not looking to us as a safety net, and we're not looking to be a safety net. We want to be targets out there, targets they can throw to and have confidence in.

"Tight ends are traditionally an easier target for a quarterback, but they're confident in their arms and we're confident in them. They can make all the throws. We're looking to get open so they can make the throws to us."
Williams also wants to stretch the field.

"I have to just compete, get our team first downs, get our team yards after catch, do what a regular tight end does," Williams said. "That's my job, and I'm looking to make my role a little bigger, give a little vertical stretch down the middle of the field and, hopefully, do a good job of it."

Offensive coordinator Jim McElwain said players will have to earn their pass-catching opportunities.

"I think Michael's done a really good job as far as developing physically and as far as understanding the communication part between him and the tackle in the run game, as well as in the passing game giving you that big body downfield that can go work on certain people," McElwain said. "The thing that Mike has done a fantastic job of is learning the game and the nuances of the position, which really help him both in the passing game and the run game.

"As far as featuring a guy, we're not a big feature team - if that's where the throw will go, it will go there, and he's really capable of making those plays."

One thing Williams has learned is that being a friend to quarterbacks is in his best interest.

"You have to get to know them, take them out to eat, do all that stuff to make them throw you the ball," Williams said with a laugh.

Reach Tommy Deas at tommy.deas@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0224.


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