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From Whitt to Williams, a lesson in toughness

AUBURN | It almost sounds like Travis Williams is channeling Joe Whitt when he talks about coaching linebackers.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise, though.

Whitt coached linebackers for 25 years at Auburn including Williams from 2001-05. Now, Williams is in his first season coaching the Tigers’ linebackers.

“I don't know any other way because I know it works,” said Williams of passing on the lessons that Whitt taught him more than a decade ago. “I'm going to teach them football. We're going to be tough, I know that much. We're going to do everything in our power to be tough.

“If we mess up on that field, I always tell them this, 'Every mistake belongs to me except for your effort, stupid penalties and being physical.' So you better run to the ball, that's on you. You better not let a guy just do you any kind of way on that field. That's being physical, that's on you. Stupid penalties, that's on you. That Xs and Os, that's on me. The toughness part is on you. They don't have to worry about messing up. All they've got to worry about is not letting somebody do them any kind of way and being physical.”

William Rackley/Auburn athletics

Any practice observer will tell you Williams approaches his job on the field with a lot of energy. He’s in constant motion and knows how to motivate his players to give maximum effort.

“He's a very fiery guy,” senior linebacker T.J. Neal said. “He's excited every day. He comes in every day with the same attitude -- ready to work and get better.”

Williams, 33, also relates well to his players off the field and has a knack for helping them understand the defense.

“Coach T-Will really believes in us and shows us a lot of love. He’s a great teacher and he understands the game of football,” sophomore linebacker Deshaun Davis said. “He knows how to explain things because some guys can’t pick up terminology and he can level it down to where everybody can understand it. That’s why I think the young guys are picking things up quickly.”

Neal, Davis, Tre’ Williams and Darrell Williams are four of the linebackers expected to rotate at Auburn’s two inside positions this fall. Williams also has several other youngsters in his group.

“I feel good about them. We just have to keep working,” Williams said. “I feel good that they're coachable. I feel good that they're bright eyed. I feel good because they want to be good. They've been coached hard. I'm taking them through that burning sand so by the time we play that first game, I'll know they're ready. We're not going to talk tough, we're not going to talk physical, we're going to actually do it. We're going to do it. I don't know any other way.

“It's like a UFC fight. Before you get in the Octagon, if you ain't been sparring, shoot, you about to get hurt. Football is a gladiator sport. You've got to be a little different upstairs, now. A little throwed off because when I'm telling you to go run through somebody's soul, I'm actually telling you to run through his facemask. You've got to really buy into that so I'm taking them through it, now.”

They’ll be through it in another 12 days and then No. 2 Clemson visits Jordan-Hare Stadium for the opener.

“Coach T-Will has us playing downhill and getting back to how we want our linebackers to look,” Davis said.

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Even with not much experience i felt good about T-Will being hired. I'm certainly expecting better LB play this year. Addition by subtraction. 

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Love how he coaches like a leader. "The effort is on you, but the technique is on me." That's how you lead men. I bet we see 100%, 100% of the time from our linebackers this year.

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