04/26/05 — Defense, depth on Williamson's mind

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Defense, depth on Williamson's mind

By Neil Fuller
Published in Sports on April 26, 2005 2:02 PM

PRINCETON -- Defense and depth.

Russell Williamson has a clear understanding of what issues top the agenda as he prepares for a second tour of duty as head football coach at Princeton High School.

"One of the biggest things we have to address is defense," Williamson said. "Ever since I've been associated with the program, it seems like we struggle defensively. Even when I was the head coach before, we had a lot of trouble stopping people. We could do it for a game or two, but never consistently.

"Consistency on defense is where I feel we need to concentrate."

Williamson knows it could be a rocky road. He inherits a team that has gone 1-19 over the past two seasons.

The rebuilding process officially began Monday afternoon when principal Kirk Denning introduced Williamson -- a Bulldogs assistant during the 2004 season -- as the successor to former coach Joe Mitchell.

Mitchell resigned his football position earlier in the month but will continue to serve as head men's track coach.

Williamson led Princeton on the gridiron from 1999-2002 and also served along the Wilson Hunt sidelines for 15 seasons.

But defensive toughness is just the first part of Williamson's plan.

"It looks like we've got a little more depth than what we've had in the past," Williamson said. "If we can keep the injury bug out and keep some of that depth ... particularly at linebacker. We've probably got five or six kids that can play linebacker right now."

Princeton is losing 11 players to graduation. Still, Williamson sees a day where replenishing his roster won't pose quite the challenge it currently does.

The middle school roster included 35 players in 2004 -- a clear sign that the numbers game may soon be winnable.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to hold our own," Williamson said. "Hopefully, depth will come into play for us a little bit next season.

Williamson family members may help bulk up those numbers in the coming seasons.

Eldest son Matthew is currently a seventh-grader at Princeton Middle, and younger son Brad, a fourth-grade student at Rock Ridge Elementary in Wilson County -- where mother Mary Dell teaches -- plans to join his father at Princeton in a few years.

"That doesn't always work out the best," Williamson joked when asked about the prospect of coaching his sons. "Other coaches will tell you that it's not always the easiest thing."

Competition in the Class 1-A Carolina Conference is a more-immediate concern for Williamson. One that provides plenty of challenges.

He hopes building a stronger defense and increasing his troop numbers can help the Bulldogs become playoff contenders in the rugged conference.

"The league is going to be tough," Williamson said. "Every team is pretty good. I feel like we're as strong as we've ever been right now.

"Hopefully, we can hold our own."