published Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Suspended UTC Mocs runner Keon Williams set for spring practice

UTC running back Keon Williams runs underneath a net during practice at Scrappy Moore Field Wednesday afternoon.
UTC running back Keon Williams runs underneath a net during practice at Scrappy Moore Field Wednesday afternoon.
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Six weeks of training have done Keon Williams a lot of good. So have six more weeks of good behavior.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga running back, who was suspended for the 2011 season, will be on the field Monday when the Mocs begin spring practice. If there's any rust, he said, it won't last long.

"I think all that will be gone after the first carry in practice," said Williams, who was suspended after a marijuana possession arrest last May. "I'm ready to go, I know I am."

Williams said he has changed a lot in his life since his arrest, including his circle of friends.

"Really, all I do is stick around the team," he said. "You won't see me with anybody besides the team. When I'm going out to the mall or anywhere, to the movies, you won't see me with anyone but a girl or with the team.

"You can't lose like that."

After doing well in and out of the classroom during the fall, Mocs coach Russ Huesman allowed Williams to rejoin his teammates during winter conditioning. It was another step in Williams' return to the team. The powerful 6-footer returned to the weight room on Jan. 10 -- he had kept himself in reasonably good shape during his suspension, but he wasn't at the level of his teammates.

He is now. Looking lean and more muscular than ever, Williams said Thursday that he weighs 230 pounds. He was listed at 215 as a freshman in 2010.

Williams needs to be in peak form because he's part of a very crowded backfield. UTC returns J.J. Jackson, Chris Awuah and Marquis Green from last season, plus redshirt freshman Kenny Huitt and Williams.

When practice begins, Williams said, he will start at the bottom of the depth chart.

"I feel like I deserve it and have to earn my way back," he said.

Mocs coach Russ Huesman said after he suspended Williams that the former Red Bank all-state rusher was going to have to work very hard to return to the team. Now Huesman's looking forward to that return.

"He has gotten back into football shape," Huesman said. "He'll probably be sloppy at first, but you hope he progresses pretty fast, and I think he will. It will be fun to watch him this spring."

In 2010, Williams earned Southern Conference All-Freshman team honors by rushing for 500 yards and four touchdowns. Williams had some fumbling issues but often showed flashes of a player than could be a dominant back in the SoCon.

Then came the arrest in the wee hours of May 1. Williams eventually was placed on probation for two years following a guilty plea to simple possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Huesman suspended Williams for the 2011 season -- he had a redshirt year available -- and Williams was not allowed to practice or participate in team activities except study halls.

Missing the season was a difficult experience for Williams, but one he'd been through before. After moving to Chattanooga from North Carolina before his junior year in high school, the TSSAA ruled him ineligible.

"It hurt because I'd never missed a year of football, but this was different," he said. "The fact that I had done this to myself and not because of a transfer rule or anything, I kind of punished myself and made sure that I would get back into it.

"I took the negative and made it into a positive."

Spring practice begins at 3:30 p.m. Monday at Scrappy Moore Field.

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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