D'Eddric Williams has been a member of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football program for about a month.
An early enrollee who graduated in December from Hillcrest (Ala.) High School, Williams arrived on UTC's campus the day before the start of spring semester. After a whirlwind start to his time in Chattanooga, life has started to settle down into a non-overwhelming routine -- go to class, lift weights, study and hang out with new teammates.
It wasn't always so comfortable.
"When I first got here I was like, 'Oh, Lord, big mistake,'" Williams said. "All my friends from home called me and they were partying and enjoying their senior year, while I'm here and a freshman that's trying to figure out school, weights and football."
The biggest adjustment from high school to college?
"Being on your own, having to get up and go to school on your own," he said, adding that his earliest class is at 9:25 a.m. "That's not too bad, but then I have like an hour and a half before my next class, so I have time to kill, which is different from high school."
When did he finally feel settled at UTC?
"Last week," he said, laughing. "The first couple of weeks I had to take my schedule everywhere."
This is the second year in a row that UTC has had an early enrollee, a rarity in the Football Championship Subdivision. Center Shaun Hill enrolled last January, but he was unable to get a leg up during spring practice because of shoulder surgery.
An Alabama Class 6A all-state linebacker at Hillcrest, where he played for former UTC quarterback and Dalton High School coach Adam Winegarden, Williams is listed in UTC's signing day bios at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds. He said Wednesday that he's up to "247 or 248."
Because of his size, many people expected the Mocs to move Williams immediately to defensive end or tackle, but he will start out at linebacker when spring practice begins later this month.
"I know everybody's putting him down as a defensive end, but if he can move -- because he looked good at linebacker in high school -- if he can move then we'll keep him there," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "And if he can't, then the natural progression is to move him down [to defensive end]."
The original start date for spring practice was Feb. 24, but Huesman said it likely will be Feb. 27 or later due to the recent departures of offensive line coach Geep Wade and defensive line coach Jimmy Lindsey. The Mocs could practice with the present crop of defensive coaches, but not without an offensive line coach, Huesman said.
Despite his size, Williams is playing catch-up in the weight room. Because he was trying to graduate early he was unable to take the football class that most players take, which limited his time doing strength and conditioning.
"I practiced and then after practice I had to watch film, so it was hard to find time," he said. "Before I started lifting here, I hadn't really lifted weights since July. That made it hard coming in because I had so much work to do."
Williams said he would prefer to stay at linebacker, but he'll play wherever the coaches needed him. They made it clear that end was an option when they recruited him, he said.
"If they put me at end I'll make the best out of it," he said.
Regardless of which position becomes his home, Williams will have a head start on the other 14 players the Mocs signed on Feb. 1. By the time they report to preseason practice this summer, Williams will have had 15 spring practices and about eight months of collegiate-level weight training.
John Frierson is in his fifth year at the Times Free Press and fifth 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 ...