"You can't keep us all off the field."
Cadillac Williams believes this is the deepest running back room he's had at Auburn. And this staff believes in strength in numbers.
RB Damari Alston (Austin Perryman/Auburn Athletics)
Twenty years ago, Cadillac Williams was in a crowded room.
Heading into the 2003 season, Williams was coming off an injury that cost him the second half of his sophomore campaign. Ronnie Brown carried the workload in Williams’ place, and he was set to get plenty of touches with Williams the next season.
Williams and Brown weren’t alone, though. Brandon Jacobs had just transferred to Auburn from Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, where he was a JUCO All-American.
And then there was Tre Smith, who was fresh off of rushing for 126 yards in a win over Alabama that would start a famous streak of six straight Iron Bowl victories.
All four running backs had a strong case to get touches, and it created a level of competition that Williams still gets fired up talking about two decades later as an Auburn coach.
“I’ve been through it, being in a deep room and fighting for playing time,” Williams said Tuesday. “And I love it, man. Every guy I recruit, I tell him, ‘You know, to come play, man, you’re gonna have to be selfless.’ And you’re looking at a guy who had the opportunity to play with Tre Smith, Brandon Jacobs and Ronnie Brown — to play in a backfield where we made each other better.
“Iron sharpens iron. We were selfless. When Ronnie went out there or Brandon or Tre and they did something, I’m happy for them and I’m cheering for them. But also, it lit a fire up under me.”
That’s the message Williams has stressed to his new-look running back room at Auburn in 2023, one that no longer has superstar Tank Bigsby but returns Jarquez Hunter, Damari Alston and former walk-on Sean Jackson while adding Brian Battie and Jeremiah Cobb.
“I can honestly say, from top to bottom, it’s probably the deepest that room has been since I’ve been here,” said Williams, who became Auburn’s running backs coach in 2019.
That’s high praise — and it plays exactly into what head coach Hugh Freeze and offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery have done in the past.
“You can't keep all of us off the field,” Alston said earlier this week. “So it's just sharing the ball, and it’s going to take some hits off of us. We're going to be able to make big plays in the stadium this year.”