Carnell (Cadillac) Williams was rolling. The Auburn tailback entered last year's Iron Bowl battle with Alabama having rushed for 344 yards in the previous two games. The Tigers were 7-2 and needed a single win in their final two games to clinch the SEC West title. Cadillac, then a freshman, tore off 25 yards on the game's first play with a breathtaking run in which he reversed field after getting bottled up. But after his fifth carry of the drive Williams dragged himself to the sideline, his left clavicle broken. Thus ended the season for both Williams and Auburn, which was rolled by the Tide 31-7 and finished 7-5. "When Carnell got hurt you could just tell that everybody else lost their confidence," says Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville.
With Cadillac—the 5' 11", 193-pounder got the nickname for his smooth running style while at Etowah ( Ala.) High—in the shop for the rest of the season, the focus was on the quarterback duel between sophomore Jason Campbell and senior Daniel Cobb, who split duties last year. That proved the undoing of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who was replaced in January with Bob Petrino, the offensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The battle between Campbell and Cobb, who received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA for 2002 but has seen just eight games' worth of action, will continue into two-a-days.
The defense, which has a new coordinator of its own in Gene Chizik, should be strong. Seven starters are back, including junior outside linebacker Dontarrious Thomas (a team-best 122 tackles in '01), who heads a deep and talented linebacking group. Senior placekicker Damon Duval was a finalist for the 2001 Lou Groza Award.
Still, when Tuberville sits down at Byron's barbecue joint for his weekly lunch with the Auburn faithful, much of the talk will be about how well Cadillac is running. His teammates, who are tired of trying to tackle the now-healthy Williams in practice, are eager to see him set loose on opponents again. "When he got hurt, it made us a little flat," says junior linebacker Karlos Dansby. "But now he's patched up and ready to ride."