On a hot, muggy labor Saturday last September, Duke WIlliams burst onto the scene at Auburn. He shredded the Arkansas secondary with Jeremy Johnson throwing him lasers in the first half of that game, giving Auburn fans a taste of great things to come. He is a playmaker. He is a game changer.
And now apparently he is a problem child.
I've heard from a former player that Duke was a locker room problem all of last season. (He actually used the term cancer). I never would have guessed it given the guy's presence on the field and the sideline. He appeared to be all business when the ball was teed up. Of course, I thought the same of Michael Dyer.
Duke got in a brawl and got suspended for the bowl game. Most of us set that aside and were pretty psyched that he chose to return for his senior year. Then spring rolls around and we get this cryptic twitter outburst about not wanting to be in Auburn anymore.
Follow that up with what happened last week.
And if you are in the dark about what happened last week a source very close to the program tells me it went something like this...
Coach Craig was riding Duke pretty hard in practice. Contrary to what many have said, no punches were thrown, but some pretty nasty things were said, mainly by Williams. Craig walked away shaking his head. All of this occurred in right in front of Gus and Lashlee. After practice, Gus called Duke in and let him have it.
We all could see how visibly angry Gus was when in mentioned it in the presser after practice. So yeah, Duke has some work to do to get back in good graces. The question is: Will he?
At this point I am pretty used to receivers being prima donnas; Ocho-Cinco, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, the list goes on and on. Usually those guys wait until they are already millionaires to blow up. Maybe Duke wanted to get it out of his system early.
I have to compliment Coach Malzahn on the way he has handled the situation. He won't allow Duke to be a distraction and is content in his decision to move forward with the team he has. I don't know many head coaches who would make that call (looking at you Les Miles).
My best guess is Duke does his penance and returns to good graces in time for Louisville. If he decides not to, then he will likely cost himself millions. And he is such an amazing weapon. We all saw the Iron Bowl.
But can he be a good teammate for the stretch of an entire season? I think that's the danger here. If Duke is one of those types that can sink a season, we are obviously better off cutting ties. I'd like to think that's not the case. I'd like to think he just lost control of his emotions in the sweltering August heat. But I just don't know.
What I do know is that I trust Malzahn, Lashlee, and Craig to make the right call here. And for now, that will have to do.