Williams might get call in Thibodeaux's absence

Houston, Texas native and redshirt freshman John Williams (pictured above) talks with Sooners Illustrated Editor Jay C. Upchurch about his chances of replacing Calvin Thibodeaux in the Sooners' defensive end rotation. (Photo provided by SoonerSports.com)<br>

When John Williams arrived in Norman for the summer of 2003, he brought with him an impressive résumé and a paltry 215 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame. As a defensive standout at Lamar High School in Houston, Williams had always relied on a healthy combination of speed and agility to overcome any disadvantages he may have experienced in the power department.

Oklahoma's coaching staff loved what Williams brought to the table ability-wise, but it wanted to see the talented freshman take more away from the table, as in girth.

So that's what Williams has spent the last year doing — packing on the pounds while easing into the Sooners' defensive system. He redshirted in 2003, spent the entire offseason eating and working out, and then reported to preseason camp in August weighing in at a buffed 250 pounds.

Even with his new physique, Williams expected to spend the 2004 season continuing to grow and mature. He would most likely have to wait another year for a chance to put his skills on display. But when junior Calvin Thibodeaux suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second quarter of OU's win over Oregon, both Williams and teammate Alonzo Dotson moved up the depth chart.

Sooners Illustrated editor Jay C. Upchurch caught up with Williams after practice Monday to get his take on current defensive end situation and the potential opportunity to play more in the not-too-distant future.

SI: Is the coaching staff talking about elevating your role as one of the main backups at defensive end?

JW: Everyday at practice I'm working hard to make progress in that direction. I didn't really know for sure what's going to happen, but whoever steps up is probably going to fill that spot.

SI: If they call on you to play in key situations are you going to be ready?

JW: If they call on me, I'll be ready. No doubt, no doubt.

SI: What areas do you feel you still need to work on to be a complete player?

JW: Be mentally stronger, I think that's something I've got to keep working on. I think I'm there physically, but I've got to continue to work on the mental aspects.

SI: How tough has it been to come in and redshirt after playing such a significant role your entire high school career?

JW: I wouldn't change it because it gave me a chance to come in and learn the system and get comfortable with my surroundings. It's been a good thing for me, most indeed. If I've got to sit out more time, that's what I'll do. When it's my time, I'll do my best to step up.

SI: Is patience something you've had to learn as a college football player?

JW: Oh yes. All good things will come to those who wait. It's not going to be handed to you — you've got to earn it and that can take some time. I try to gather my thoughts every day and be patient. If I do that. it will come to me. You can't rush things — you've got to let them come to you.

SI: Are you anxious to show what you can do in a game?

JW: I played a little against Houston, but it was at the end. It was a great feeling to be out there and I'm looking forward to the future. I'm definitely anxious to do it in a different situation. I think I'm read, but I've got to continue to show my coaches that I'm ready.

SI: What players on the team have helped with your progress as far as learning the offense and handling the various pressures?

JW: The whole defensive line has been great. They all took me in and showed us the ropes, showed us what to do. They've been wonderful and I'm grateful for that.

SI: What are the elements that makeup a good defensive end at this level?

JW: First of all, you've got to be mentally prepared. That's such a key. You also have to be physically prepared. Strong, fast and tough, those are keys.

SI: Has your experience at OU been a good one so far?

JW: It's been great, it's been great. I'm learning and working hard to become a better football player. I've made good friends and enjoyed my time here. I'm looking forward to the future.

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