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Vols have respect for Hokies' Williams

Lane Kiffin knows talent. The Tennessee coach has been an assistant at Southern Calfiornia and the head coach of the NFL's Oakland Raiders, and he signed one of the nation’s top recruiting classes in his first year in Knoxville.

That is why it speaks volumes of his assessment of Virginia Tech (9-3), which will face the Volunteers (7-5) in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Thursday in Atlanta. Asked which Hokies player he would draft if he were still coaching the Oakland Raiders, Kiffin said, “The tailback.”

Running back Ryan Williams burst onto the scene for Virginia Tech this season. He was named ACC rookie of the year after rushing for a conference-record 1,538 yards.

“Watching him, his mixture of speed and power, is really incredible to see for a freshman,” Kiffin said at a recent news conference at Neyland Stadium. “I think I would take him knowing how young he is and how much he can develop.”

While Kiffin might like to have Williams as a prospect, the Hokies freshman should provide the Volunteers one of their most difficult matchup problems. Although Virginia Tech’s offense showed more balance as the year went on, Williams was always the main component driving it.

While the Volunteers’ strength is their pass defense, they have also schemed well against talented rushing this season. Indeed, Tennessee has talented run stoppers, such as linebacker Rico McCoy, the team’s leading tackler and a second-team all-Southeastern Conference selection.

Alabama’s Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, had 99 yards and no touchdowns on 18 carries in the Crimson Tide’s win over Tennessee on Oct. 24. The Volunteers limited Georgia to just 89 yards rushing in their win over the Bulldogs on Oct. 10. In a loss at Florida on Sept. 19, however, they had trouble handling quarterback Tim Tebow and the Gators’ cadre of backfield threats.

“They’re good,” Williams said of the Volunteers’ defense and added that he was not worried about any game plans to slow him down. “We’re a very dynamic offense. We can pass and we can run – whatever Tennessee’s defense is willing to do. If they’re trying to stop one specific aspect to the offense, we’ll be able to shine on the other.”

Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams (no relation) said the Hokies’ attack is reminiscent of at least one of the Volunteers’ SEC opponents.

“It kind of reminds me of Georgia, the way they run the ball,” said Williams, a 6-foot-3, 327-pound disruptor in the interior of the Volunteers’ line. “I’ve been watching the run plays, the way Ryan Williams has been running and the big plays he makes for that team.”

Asked for his take on the Hokies’ running back, the Volunteers tackle said: “For that guy to be a freshman, he makes some incredible runs. You give credit to the offensive line he has in front of him; it’s a big, physical group. But he has good vision, speed, power. He makes guys miss. He’s a total back that I’m pretty sure any college would want in their backfield.”

By Mark Viera  |  December 28, 2009; 11:15 AM ET
 
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