Transfer Williams still on move, heading up Maryland secondary

Corner moves to safety, making quick impression

College Football

September 20, 2002|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Madieu Williams has not been established for long at free safety for the Maryland Terrapins. It only looks that way.

Watching Williams perform comfortably during Maryland's 1-2 start, it's easy to dismiss the transition he had to tackle to reach this point in his career.

All Williams has done since the fall of 2000 is transfer from Towson University, where he faced Patriot League competition for two years as a promising cornerback, earn a scholarship at Maryland after merely one season of spring football, switch to free safety, and after sitting out for a redshirt season, become the most versatile player in the Terps' secondary.

"I didn't expect anything coming in. I just figured I would work hard to showcase my talent and hope that Coach would give me an opportunity," said Williams, a fourth-year junior. "I figured I'd roll the dice and see what happened. So far it's working out pretty good."

So far Williams has done everything to justify the faith Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen placed in him by granting Williams a scholarship on such short notice. So far Williams has put his coverage skills to good use as a safety and an occasional cornerback, while proving that he can dish out hits with the aggression of a linebacker at 6 feet 1, 193 pounds.

"He's really the only guy who can probably play every position in our secondary," Terps defensive coordinator Gary Blackney said. "He's very football smart."

Junior cornerback Curome Cox said the Terps sensed Williams was special after watching him in a preseason scrimmage against Towson two summers ago.

"I remember some of our receivers were saying how impressive that corner [Williams] was when we scrimmaged Towson," Cox said. "When he walked on here that next spring, we knew the kind of talent he had. It's the way he studies the game."

Everything about Williams' adjustment has been smooth, starting with the way he adapted to the increased pace of the game at the Atlantic Coast Conference level. Williams said going up against receivers like Scooter Monroe and former Terp Guilian Gary in practice throughout his redshirt year helped him get up to speed.

And if you think moving from cornerback to safety is a minor switch, think again. Cornerbacks typically reside on an island, engaging in one-on-one battles with a receiver.

At safety, the responsibilities expand significantly. Now, Williams is essentially a center fielder. On any given snap, he could be rotating to help a corner in coverage, or lining up to cover a slot receiver in a man-to-man setup, or coming up to support the run defense.

"You get to be zoned in at corner, as far as locking down on one specific person. At safety, you've got to read everything as the last line of defense. You're more in space, and there's more contact," said Williams, who played for DuVal High School in Prince George's County.

"You're taking on fullbacks and linemen. You're in the land of the giants and you can't be shy, especially ... taking on guys who could be twice your size. It keeps me on my toes."

Williams, who said he transferred originally to be closer to his Lanham home, has responded to the challenge in the early going.

In his first game, before nearly 73,000 spectators at Giants Stadium, he helped keep the Notre Dame offense out of the end zone in a 22-0 loss to the Fighting Irish. He then intercepted two passes in a 44-14 victory over Akron. And twice in last week's 37-10 loss to Florida State, Williams showed his toughness by putting 250-pound Seminoles running back Greg Jones on the ground with authority.

Williams has 10 tackles, including seven solo. He also has recovered a special teams fumble.

"He is a lot like [middle linebacker] E.J. [Henderson], a very physically gifted football player and a great tackler," Blackney said. "He's involved in every play like the quarterback. And he has adjusted as quickly and as easily as anyone I've been around."

NOTES: Scott McBrien will start at quarterback against Eastern Michigan tomorrow, Friedgen said. McBrien had to out-perform backup Chris Kelley in practice this week to keep the job, after an ineffective showing against Florida State ... Tailback Bruce Perry, who has yet to play while recovering from a torn groin muscle, missed practice for personal reasons yesterday and will not play tomorrow. ... Sophomore Kyle Schmitt will start at center, after senior Todd Wike missed his fourth day of practice with lingering effects of a concussion.

Next for Terps

Opponent:Eastern Michigan

Site:Byrd Stadium, College Park

When:Tomorrow, 6 p.m.

TV/Radio:Comcast pay-per-view/WNST (1570 AM), WIYY (97.9 FM)

Line:Maryland by 35

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