Auburn's Williams looking to prove he can be No. 1 RB
Jan. 27, 2005
SportsLine.com wire reports
MOBILE, Ala. -- Carnell Williams has been a center of attention at the Senior Bowl all week, visiting with NFL head coaches, doing nonstop interviews and lobbying hard to become the first tailback picked in April's draft.
His chief competition for that spot, Auburn teammate Ronnie Brown and Texas' Cedric Benson, opted to skip the showcase game for top senior NFL prospects.
The Tigers thrived with Williams and Brown splitting time in the backfield, though it meant neither had gaudy statistics. Maybe that will change in the pros.
"I definitely want to get my share of carries and be the feature back and bring some team that I play on to the Super Bowl in the near future," said Williams, a second-team AP All-American as a senior.
He and California's J.J. Arrington are the two most high-profile backs in Saturday's game. Kay-Jay Harris of West Virginia and Tennessee's Cedric Houston are among these joining Williams in the South backfield. Kansas State's 5-foot-5 sparkplug Darren Sproles is one of the North running backs.
Williams has met with Dolphins coach Nick Saban and spent plenty of time with the Bucs' Jon Gruden, coach of the South team. Both have top five picks and are in the market for a tailback. Williams has enthusiastically praised both teams and coaches.
Gruden gave a tongue-in-cheek assessment of his interest in Williams, who led Auburn to a 13-0 record and No. 2 final ranking.
"I don't believe we'd even think about him," he said, grinning.
Then, he sang Williams' praises.
"He can stop on a dime. He can go from here to there as well as a lot of people," Gruden said. "He's a good kid. You watch him score touchdowns inside the 5 as a short-yardage runner, he runs with power. He's just a hell of a back if you ask me."
Williams said he didn't follow Brown or Benson in turning down invitations because, "I just want to be the No. 1 back once I leave here.
"Between now and April, anything could happen, anything could change," said Williams, who broke Bo Jackson's Auburn record with 45 rushing touchdowns and finished second in career yards rushing. "I'm not getting my heart sold on going to Miami or going to the Bucs, because I know this is a business. Whatever happens, I'm just excited."
Williams has gotten plenty of practice opportunities to prove he can catch the ball, something Brown was called on to do far more than him at Auburn. He also returned punts and kicks.
"I had a lot of question marks with my hands -- can he carry the load, things like that," he said. "I came down here to just kind of establish myself, to show everybody that I can catch the ball, I am the total package, I can block. I can do it all."
Harris also arrived in Mobile with plenty to prove. He rushed for a school-record 337 yards against East Carolina in the season opener, but was hobbled with knee and hamstring injuries for much of the season.
He did gain 134 yards against Florida State in the Gator Bowl.
"A lot of people were on my bandwagon at the beginning of the season before I injured myself," Harris said. "By me still playing, I didn't have a chance to get healthy. I always just want to remind those guys that the way they had me on their list at the beginning of the season, that's the way they should still have me on their list now."
Harris believes he's still one of the top three backs in the draft and is already thinking about proving wrong any NFL teams that disagree when the draft comes around.
"I'm just letting everybody know that everybody who picks backs and passes me up, when I get that chance to play against them on Sunday, I've got that little chip on my shoulder," Harris said. "I'm talking about having one of those Jamal Lewis type days that he did against Cleveland."
The Baltimore Ravens tailback set an NFL record in 2003 with 295 yards against the Browns.