published Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Keon Williams ready: UTC running back excited about return from suspension

  • photo
    Keon Williams is looking forward to his return to the playing field after missing last season because of off-the-field problems.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The last time Keon Williams suited up in a game for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the running back had a performance to forget in the Mocs' 45-14 drubbing at Wofford on Nov. 20, 2010.

"I don't even want to talk about Wofford," he said with a laugh after Tuesday's practice.

That's understandable.

On his first carry of the game, with UTC down 7-0, Williams burst loose for a big gain. After a 33-yard run, he was stripped of the ball just before the goal line and the Terriers recovered. It was a massive momentum swing and UTC wasn't in the game the rest of the way.

His next carry didn't come until the fourth quarter, when UTC was down 38-7, and again he fumbled. Williams showed his talent often as a true freshman, finishing with 500 yards on 103 carries, but he also fumbled several times.

Of course fumbles were the least of his concerns a few months later when he was arrested in May 2011 for marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Williams, the former Red Bank High School star, was eventually placed on probation after pleading guilty to simple possession. He was suspended by Mocs coach Russ Huesman for the 2011 season and rejoined the team this winter.

The time away from the game showed during spring practice, but Williams showed up for preseason practice in the best shape of his life and now he can't wait to get that first carry.

"I was telling some of the players [Tuesday], I haven't touched the field in a long time so I'm ready to get out there and just eat somebody up right now," he said.

J.J. Jackson is listed as UTC's No. 1 running back, but Williams and Marquis Green are likely to get numerous touches, as well.

Defending Daniels

A year ago, UTC had to contend with Nebraska's dynamic quarterback Taylor Martinez in the Mocs' opener. On Saturday, UTC will have to deal with South Florida's B.J. Daniels.

A senior with 33 career starts, the 6-foot, 217-pound Daniels has 6,339 passing yards and 1,634 on the ground.

"I think he's the best player on their team, I don't think there's any question about that -- a dynamic player," Huesman said.

UTC held Martinez in check at times a year ago, but when he got loose he really made the Mocs pay. Martinez finished with 135 yards rushing and three touchdowns and was 11-of-22 passing for 116 yards. Stopping Daniels, Huesman said, will require more than just taking the run or pass away.

"We're going to have to defend him both ways and come up with ways, within our defense, to try to get people around him," he said.

Extra points

The Mocs will be taking 62 players to Tampa, though some won't play if UTC can help it. Among them is sophomore defensive tackle Josh Freeman, a Southern Conference All-Freshman team pick last season, whom UTC is hoping to redshirt. ... The only players out due to injury are safeties William BeAird (knee), Dean Haynes (foot) and offensive lineman Devin Caldwell (knee).

about John Frierson...

John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...

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