Auburn coach Gus Malzahn continued to express his “disappointment” over the Duke Williams situation Tuesday night, but offered little in the way of details regarding what led to him dismissing the wide receiver from the team 24 hours earlier.
Malzahn declined to address if it was related to an off-the-field incident, or if any other Auburn players were involved.
“I'm not going to get into details regarding that,” Malzahn said. “That's between us and he's dismissed from the team.”
Williams “didn’t have much” of reaction when Malzahn met with him to deliver the news, and the senior isn’t staying enrolled at Auburn.
“Any time you have to make a tough call and dismiss a player, it's not easy,” Malzahn said. “At the same time, this is a team sport and you're always going to think about the team first. You give people chances, you give opportunities for people to prove themselves and the bottom line it didn't. It's not easy and it shouldn't be easy for a coach, but you've got to do what's best for your team.”
It is the third time since last year’s Outback Bowl Williams had a disciplinary issue. During training camp, he was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules, and missed six practices.
Malzahn didn’t have any regrets giving Williams multiple chances.
“The biggest thing is you’re disappointed when you have to get a rid of a player, and you hope that things would be different and you hope that he would’ve responded differently,” Malzahn said. “But no, I feel fine about the process. I’m just disappointed it didn’t work out.”
Williams’ former teammates offered a frank assessment of the situation Tuesday night.
Fellow wide receiver Jonathan Wallace, one of the team's captain this year, said as much as he personally likes Williams, the coaching staff had “to draw the line somewhere.”
“I love him to death,” Wallace said. “I'm sad to see this had to take place, but it needed to be done so we can move forward and get better as a team.”
Wallace said every play on the team has a responsibility to represent the university the right way.
“The coaches preach that to us day-in, and day-out,” Wallace said.
Defensive back Jonathan Jones said the incident wasn’t a distraction for the team as it practiced for the first time without Williams Tuesday night. Monday was an off-day for the players.
“I feel like the coaches were able to put that aside and as a team we were able to focus together and move past it,” Jones said. “All teams are going to have people get in trouble and things happen on and off the field, but it’s up to the team to come together and put that to the side and say, ‘hey, we’re going to focus on football.’ We’ve always been able to do that.”
Coaches are already evaluating the wide receivers to see who will replace Williams in the starting lineup.
While Williams’ had modest numbers -- 12 receptions, 147 yards with a touchdown -- he consistently drew double-teams from opposing defenses.
“You've got Ricardo Louis. You've got Melvin Ray. You've got Tony Stevens,” Malzahn said. “You've got guys we feel very good about. Also, what it does is it opens up opportunities for some young guys to step up. We feel good about our receiving crew. You could see some really good energy out of the receiving crew today.”
Wallace sensed guys stepping their games up Tuesday night.
“There is a different sense of urgency in the receiving group, lot of young guys excited about stepping up, and got that opportunity today,” Wallace said. “We had a really good practice, lot of guys laying out for balls, making crazy catches. It was really excited to see. It was a good start.”