Williams is of secondary importance to UM

Towson transfer ready to assume role in Terps' defensive backfield

College Football

April 07, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - After watching defensive back Madieu Williams play last spring, during last season on the scout team and during this spring practice for Maryland's football team, Ralph Friedgen made a standing offer to Towson University coach Gordy Combs: "If Gordy wants to send me any more like Madieu, we'll take him."

Williams, who spent his first two years in college football playing for Combs on the Division I-AA Tigers, is making a good-sized splash for the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champions despite not having played a down since the 2000 season.

He shared the honor of being the Terps' best defensive scout team member last season, and it's likely that he'll end up replacing Randall Jones to start at the free safety position. At 6 feet 1, 193 pounds, Williams is larger than most of the team's defensive backs, and moves about the field faster than his 4.6-second time in the 40-yard dash would indicate. And he's also capable of playing the other three defensive backfield positions if necessary.

"Since high school, I've played both [cornerback and safety]," said Williams,who played at DuVal in suburban Washington. "I remember one game in high school when I started at one corner and one of my teammates went down; I had to play safety. To me, both feel natural."

Low SAT scores kept Williams from coming to College Park earlier, though the Terps had shown interest in him coming out of Duval in 1999, as did Ohio University.

Towson was one of the few programs with spots available by the time Williams achieved a qualifying SAT score, and he started in 11 games over two years.

Family considerations led him to transfer from Towson, and his easy handling of the jump in competition - including a strong performance in last year's spring game - was rewarded with a scholarship given in advance of the norm for walk-ons.

"Normally, you'd make them go through fall," Maryland defensive coordinator Gary Blackney said, "but we knew he had qualities that would allow him to be a great contributor to our program."

Williams, who lived his first seven years in Sierra Leone before his family moved to the United States, said his goal is to help this year's Maryland secondary exceed the standard set in 2001.

That group included two All-ACC first-teamers, Tony Jackson and Tony Okanlawon, and picked off 21 passes. Curome Cox is the only returning starter from that group, while Dennard Wilson and Domonique Foxworth are expected to start at strong safety and cornerback, respectively.

"We have to uphold what they did last year, and we don't want any drop-off," Williams said. "What we lack in experience, we want to make up for in athleticism."

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