March 24, 2010

Williams making early strides

After spending a season alternating between Sam and Will linebacker, junior Nick Williams could not be any happier to be back at safety.

Of course, it helps when you're running with the first team.

Still, even if Williams hadn't made such a quick impression on new secondary coach Scott Lakatos, he'd still be thrilled to be back "home."

"I love it, just love it," Williams said "That's where my heart was coming in but obviously when I moved to linebacker I had to play it so there was no need to complain. But this was where my heart was. It's where I'm most comfortable and I'm looking forward to make the most of it."

Apparently, Williams is doing just that.

The Bainbridge native has been one of spring camp's bigger surprises having jumped to the top of the depth chart at free safety.

"With Coach Lakatos, it's how quick we learn and make plays," Williams said. "He's just looking for playmakers; who's going to run to the ball, tackle and be aggressive. That's what he's looking for."

Head coach Mark Richt will give him that.

Although Williams - like the rest of the defense - is still in the process of figuring out Georgia's new 3-4 scheme, his all-out effort is earning him plenty of points with the staff.

"Nick plays with a lot of speed and energy," Richt said. "But the more he understands, the better it's going to be for him. He's like the rest of the guys on defense, still trying to figure things out, but Nick will play fast and he will hit you. I like what I see there, too."

Like any true safety, Williams doesn't mind a little contact. In fact, he embraces it.

Apparently, that's just the message Lakatos wants all his defensive backs to understand.

"He's (Lakatos) big on putting your face in there and striking people. He's a very aggressive coach," Williams said. "He's about being aggressive; he's about setting a tone. It ain't about laying back. If you're going to catch a touchdown pass on us, you're going to pay for it and I love that about him."

Lakatos' hands-on approach is winning favor with players like Williams as well.

"I love that about him, and I like how he coaches me," he said. "It's different than last year. He's hands on. He'll get on you, but when he gets on you he gets on you in a respectful manner. He'll get on you hard but it's just about football."

As a former high school quarterback, Williams credits his former position for some of the success he's enjoying at safety, where Shawn Williams and Jakar Hamilton are also in the mix for considerable playing time opposite Bacarri Rambo, who figures to start for the Bulldogs at strong side.

"It definitely helped a lot because I really liked quarterback in high school; now having played the position, I kind of know what they're thinking, what to look for," Williams said. "It's almost like cheating. You're almost unblocked. In this scheme, say 70-80 percent of the time, you're unblocked so all you've got to do is become a great tackler."

Williams admits tackling is an aspect of his game that he has to improve.

"I can hit, but need to do a better job of wrapping up once I do," he added. "But I'll get better. We've got some great teachers here. I'll get it down."

Having Rambo playing alongside doesn't hurt, either.

If Williams has a question, all he has to do is look Rambo's way for the answer.

"Sometimes I'm over there just listening and he's there telling me what to do," Williams said. "I just love the way he plays, his aggressiveness, the way he tackles; he's a great thud-up guy. When we're in shells he's a great thud-up guy. I'm learning from him.

"Like I said, it's been a lot of fun."

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