Indiana Daily Student

Running back provides versatility for offense

Football team looking to use Williams in a variety of ways this season after solid 1999 campaign

Junior Levron Williams has the size and strength of a linebacker, reliable hands like a wide receiver and speed comparable to almost any kick returner.\nThe scary thing for IU's opponents this season is that Williams is at running back -- a position where he can combine all his talents.\n"I'm going to try a little bit of everything," Williams said. "I will run off tackle, run from the option or go out on the slot and catch the ball."\nNo running back in the Big Ten is as versatile as the 6-foot-4 Williams.\nMichigan's Anthony Thomas is more experienced. Northwestern's Damien Anderson might be more durable. And Michigan State's T.J. Duckett is stronger.\nBut whether he's asked to run the option alongside junior quarterback Antwaan Randle El, gain three tough yards up the middle or go deep on a pass route, Williams showed in 1999 he has the ability of being a part of every play.\n"With him being able to receive it's great because we don't have to put three receivers in the game," Randle El said. "We can go in different formations with him in the game. With him being as tall as he his and having the hands he has, it helps the team a lot."\n Realizing the versatility Williams could provide in IU's backfield, coach Cam Cameron and his staff switched the Evansville native from wide receiver to tailback last season. Playing running back in 1999 allowed Williams to get more touches than he did as a redshirt freshman in 1998.\n Williams finished last season with a team-high 817 rushing yards on 118 carries. He rushed for more than 100 yards in three games, including a career-high 241 yards, Oct. 9, against Northwestern. \nAs a receiver out of the backfield, Williams was second on the team in receptions with 33. In the season finale against Purdue, Williams caught eight passes for 111 yards.\nWilliams' performance in 1999 earned him an All-Big Ten honorable mention title from the coaches and media. Despite being featured on the back of the 2000 Indiana Football Yearbook and in a number of preseason magazines, Williams said he is unchanged by his success.\n"The recognition means nothing to me," he said. \nA 1,000 yard rushing season could be in Williams' future this fall, but he said, "It goes through my head, but I don't want to talk about it too much." \nPlaying running back is nothing new for Williams. He was a standout at the position during his days at Bosse High School in Evansville, completing his career with 4,269 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns. \nPlaying tailback at the college level last season was a new experience for Williams. Before the start on the 1999 season, he had just six carries in his collegiate career.\n"It's been fun to watch him develop in stages," Cameron said. "He started out as a split end, then as a tailback, who was primarily an outside runner, and now he's got to be able to develop the ability to run inside."\nWhen he arrived at IU in 1997, Williams weighed 190 pounds. After participating in the Hoosiers' offseason conditioning program this winter, Williams is now 220 pounds. The added weight should help Williams when he collides with some of the conference's larger defensive linemen and linebackers.\nIU's backfield is touted as one of top three in the conference by preseason publications and football experts. Williams is a big reason for this, but his supporting cast should also be productive this season.\nMaking lead blocks for Williams will be two talented fullbacks, senior De'Wayne Hogan and sophomore Jeremi Johnson. Playing behind Williams will be redshirt freshman Brian Lewis. Although Lewis is 5-foot-8, Williams said his backup has all kinds of talent.\n"Brian's a great back," Williams said. "He's quick and kind of like Barry Sanders. He's going to push me to become a better player."\nAs far as the fullbacks, Levron said it doesn't matter if he's playing alongside Hogan or Johnson. \nJohnson said Williams helped him elevate his game as a freshman last season.\n"I haven't been around a lot of great tailbacks like Levron," Johnson said. "I see him doing good, and I want to do good also." \nHeading into Saturday's home-opener against North Carolina State, there's no doubt what position Williams will play. \n"I'm starting to feel real comfortable as a running back, but I still have a lot to learn," he said. Williams added that he likes playing tailback more than receiver for a simple reason: "It's better to get the ball in the backfield than with your back turned to the defender"

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