Senior linebacker set to lead defense

Senior outside linebacker Tyler Williamson, right, laughs with teammates Saturday after the final scrimmage at Saluki Stadium. Williamson, a captain of the Saluki football team prides himself in his leadership position. I am constantly talking to the younger guys, Williamson said.Nathan Hoefort • Daily Egyptian

Senior outside linebacker Tyler Williamson, right, laughs with teammates Saturday after the final scrimmage at Saluki Stadium. Williamson, a captain of the Saluki football team prides himself in his leadership position. “I am constantly talking to the younger guys,” Williamson said.Nathan Hoefort • Daily Egyptian

By Tony McDaniel

One of the Salukis’ nine returning starters on defense has turned into a proven leader on the field and sidelines.

Senior outside linebacker Tyler Williamson is one of the faces of the 2014 Saluki football team. He is a captain on defense and is on the team poster and media guide.

Williamson earned the honor of being one of the faces of a Division I football program through his impressive play on the field. Since 2012 he has played in 23 games and recorded 98 tackles and 8.5 sacks. He was also named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference All-Newcomer team in 2012.

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Williamson is not only a talented player in between the sidelines, but also in between the ears.

“He has a knack for being wherever the ball is,” outside linebacker coach Travis Stepps said. “He’s one of those guys that can get turnovers for your defense whether it’s through a pick or through a forced fumble or strip.”

Williamson is more than just a leader through his play on the field. He can often be seen alerting his teammates of potential plays or correcting mistakes less experienced teammates make.

Williamson said his coaches did not have to ask him to be the vocal leader on the sideline. It’s just something he wants to do.

“It’s in my character,” he said. “Since I’ve gotten in college I’ve just understood the importance of having someone who will take control when chaos is going on. I’ve just found it to be very productive especially in my position group.”

Stepps said Williamson could be used almost as an extension of the coaching staff thanks to his experience and vocal leadership.

“He’s familiar with the lingo and the terms,” he said. “We always ask when we’re doing team reps to go over and coach guys on the sideline. The more we can help each other the better we will all be.”

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Senior inside linebacker Jordan Poole has shared the field with Williamson for 23 games since 2012, which has helped the two linebackers build strong chemistry on the field. But they are also close off the field. The two Salukis are roommates.

“We have a good relationship,” Poole said. “He’s from east Tennessee, I’m from middle Tennessee, so naturally we have a connection there.”

Poole said he and Williamson like to fish together in their free time. Both players are also Tennessee Titans fans.

So far this year during practices Williamson has gotten a break from the coaching staff. During team sessions Williamson gets a bit of a rest on the sideline while younger players get repetitions at outside-linebacker.

“It’s really nice for me to be honest. It gets me some rest for my legs,” Williamson said. “I’ve been here for two seasons and started so it’s just as good for me on the sideline to help coach these young guys up.”

Despite Williamson’s break, Stepps said he wants to see Williamson improve his durability.

“It’s a physical position playing outside linebacker,” Stepps said. “Just being able to stay healthy and play physical throughout a 12-game season is going to be tough to do. He’s taking care of his body and he’s going to have a chance to have a good season for us.”

Williamson said he gained 10 to 15 pounds during the offseason to help build up his body for the physical demands of his position.

The Salukis will return nine starters from the 2013 season and Williamson said he expects his defense to be tough.

“I think we’re really strong,” he said. “It helps that we’ve had a good spring and a good start to the fall. Most of the guys on the team have played together here in the first team… I’m pretty happy with where we are as a defense right now.”

Tony McDaniel can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @tonymcdanielDE or at 536-3311 ext. 256

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