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Texas Tech LB Kenny Williams has NFL potential at new position

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Tim Heitman/USA Today Sports
Kenny Williams will be auditioning for NFL scouts this season as a linebacker, not a running back.

Not surprisingly, Texas Tech's leading rusher the past two seasons will start Saturday against FCS opponent Central Arkansas. But he'll be starting at linebacker, not tailback.

Kenny Williams led the Red Raiders with 497 yards and eight rushing TDs last season, when Tech managed a paltry 118.2 rushing yards per game. He also led the Red Raiders in 2012, when he ran for 824 yards. It might seem counterproductive to take away the best runner from an offense that struggled to run. But Williams felt the team would be better-served if he played linebacker this season, and asked to change positions before spring practice.

Williams (5-foot-11, 228 pounds), who last played linebacker as a high school junior in 2009, lacks ideal size, but his speed (he was clocked in 4.48 seconds in the 40 in high school) and athleticism make up for it -- enough, in fact, for co-defensive coordinator/linebacker coach Matt Wallerstedt to see the NFL in Williams' future.

"They're going to see how versatile he is, and they'll see how well he does on special teams," Wallerstedt told The Associated Press. "A guy like that can have a lot of different roles with a lot of different teams with his speed. I think he could play in the league for a while."

Wallerstedt obviously is glad Williams -- who has been a special-teams star for the Red Raiders, too -- offered to make the switch.

"He's a compact, powerful kid that plays with a lot of energy and a lot of effort," Wallerstedt said. "You can't take enough of those guys. He's going to be a force to reckon with on the perimeter."

And Williams might not be finished with running back, either, as coach Kliff Kingsbury said he could see some playing time on offense this fall.

"There are certain things he does really well offensively, so we may plug him in any given moment," Kingsbury told the AP. "We'll see how the season's going."

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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