Top back has visits piling up

Top back has visits piling up

The top backs coming out in the NFL Draft all have one thing in common; no one knows when they will be taken. Three players are at the top of that list and two of those may have gotten a leg up by competing at the Combines.

It was a decision that has paid off, particularly for the Auburn running backs who took advantage of the opportunity. Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams each worked out in front of scouts at the NFL Combines and Williams thinks the decision was for the best.

"Yes, I really do," he said. "One, because most guys don't like to run it there because they hear about the surface speed and stuff like that, but I kind of look at that a different way. With every NFL team being there, GMs, scouts, I feel that if you're fast, you're going to run fast regardless, no matter what surface you're running on."

Brown and Williams each have a side bet that won't be settled until the NFL Draft. Competition, Williams says, brings out the best in people.

Which is why he took something people were saying to heart. It is one of the reasons that Cadillac Williams ran – he had extra baggage to tote this offseason. He had to prove that he still kept his speed with the added poundage. It was something that was questioned – whether he could be an every down back in the NFL.

Seeking to crush that talk, Williams added ten pounds of muscle and still ran well.

"I haven't gotten any no slower," Williams said. "I'm just as quick, I just look bigger now. To me, in the NFL, going against those big guys, I had to count on putting on a little weight."

Adding a few pounds means he gave into the thinking that scouts and NFL personnel were accurate in saying he couldn't take the beating, right?

"I don't feel like it was fair, but it is what it is," said Williams. "They feel that smaller guys can't take the pounding. But I'm looking forward to getting to show everybody that I can take the pounding. I feel that I'm going to have a long professional career."

Jon Gruden called Williams a flash-back, a player who runs through crevices instead of holes, a player that can crawl under a lineman's legs if he has to just to get the extra yard.

He likens his game to LaDainian Tomlinson instead of Jamal Lewis. And the vital part to the comparison is how he takes a hit.

"That's one of the things where people say I'm not a durable back, I won't be able to carry a load," Williams began. "What most people don't know, if they go and watch film on me, you never see a guy get a clean lick on me. It's just not going to happen. I'm always having defenders off-balance. It's how I have an advantage on them. It's not like I take a head-on collision unless I get lit up in the hole. That'll happen. But instead of taking those head-on collisions, I'm a shifty slasher back with power."

With feet that are constantly on the move, it is hard to get a good grip on the man they call Cadillac. He, therefore, rates his ability to break tackles among his best attributes. With linebackers only getting a hand on him, his balance on the move paved the way for a rushing average of 5.0 per carry as a senior.

And from the personal visits that he already has performed, the consensus among NFL personnel is that he can be a featured back in the league. Williams has already made trips to Tampa, Miami and Minnesota – and those were the ones he could remember at the time.

After amassing 1,100 yards plus in each of his past two seasons, Williams is ready to take his game to the next level. While he is confident about his running ability, he does acknowledge that his ability to pick up the blitz is a work in progress.

It is a challenge that he is not backing down from.

"(Picking up the blitz is) fine to me, but that's something that I have to do better at," said Williams. "As far as want-to and willingness, blitzes are something that I look forward to. When a linebacker runs up there, I get to man up on him. May the best man win. That's kind of how I approach it: I'm going to get you before you get me. Football is a physical sport. That's why I love this game."

His tenacious attitude on the practice field and in the game translates into a leadership role. While he won't likely take on the responsibility as a rookie, the framework is there.

"As for on the field, I'm not too much of a vocal leader, but I lead by example, by my work," he said. "I'm going to go out there and bust my butt every single day to get better and make the team better. As far as off the field, I carry my own weight and don't stand in the way. I'm a humble guy, down-to-earth, and I'm always trying to help other people."

This fall, Cadillac Williams will be helping some lucky team take their ground game to the next level.

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