Adv16-17

Updated: August 14, 2003, 3:20 PM ET

AUSTIN, Texas -- When Roy Williams looks at a defensive back across the line of scrimmage, he usually likes what he sees. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, the Texas wide receiver towers over most college cornerbacks, creating an instant mismatch in man-to-man situations.

The era of the small-fry receiver ducking for cover in the run-and-shoot is over. Williams and other big men rule the defensive backfields now.

Roy Williams, Reggie Williams of Washington, Oklahoma State's Rashaun Woods and USC's Mike Williams are some of the best examples of the new breed of receiver. All bring the size to withstand tough hits across the middle and the speed to break plays deep. The group averages about 6-foot-4 and nearly 220 pounds.

Compare that to the projected starting lineup of the Texas secondary, which stands just under 6 feet and 188 pounds and the potential for the mismatch is easy to see.

Reggie Williams and Woods were All-Americans last season. Roy Williams is projected as a potential top-three pick in the next NFL draft and could go No. 1 overall. Any member of the group could be considered a favorite for the Biletnikoff award as the country's best receiver.

Roy Williams doesn't think he can be stopped by a single defender and says even two might not be enough.

"Not one on one," he said. "I think two of them can. That's pretty hard to beat. They're going to win some, but I'm going to win the majority of them."

The three Williamses and Woods put up the kind of that told cornerbacks to be ready to give up big plays and a lot of touchdowns. The group combined to catch 346 passes for 5,556 yards and 54 touchdowns.

And these guys know they're good.

"I don't think there's anyone who can stop me," said Reggie Williams, who had 94 catches for 1,454 yards and 11 TDs last season.

"You put a short guy on me, I'll go over him," he said. "Put a big guy in there, I can run past him."

The mismatch starts at the line of scrimmage, where more defenses are playing a bump-and-run style that tries to jam the receiver before he starts his route. Coaches and quarterbacks depend on big receivers to bully through the press. Once he does, size and speed take over, especially on deep routes and jump balls.

"You get a tall guy and match him up with a short guy," said Texas coach MackBrown. "It gives you a better chance to throw the deep ball. Hopefully the shorter guy has to interfere or the tall guy can jump up on a bad throw and make a play. That's what people are looking for right now."

The old football saying goes like this: A good big guy will beat a good small guy every time. A perfect example was Woods' TD catch last season over former Kansas State All-American cornerback Terence Newman, whom the Dallas Cowboys drafted with the fifth pick overall in April.

Defensive backs must respect the size difference "even if they don't want to admit it," said USC's Mike Williams, who benefited from Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Carson Palmer to catch 81 passes for 1,265 yards and 14 touchdowns last season as a freshman .

"I've learned to use my body," he said. "It's all about being an athlete."

Size isn't the only factor. Speed still kills in the secondary. Roy Williams is among the fastest players on the field on any given Saturday, having run a 10.48-second 100 meters in high school.

"He's a freak of nature," said Texas cornerback Nathan Vasher. "Guys like Roy are probably only born like once every 10 years."

Gil Brandt says there's nothing freaky about it. The longtime personnel director of the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL's senior draft consultant said the latest bumper crop of big quality receivers is part of an evolution throughout football: players at every position are bigger, stronger and faster than ever from high school on up to the NFL.

"These guys now are like sleek race horses," Brandt said. "Whatever (Roy Williams) really weighs, he looks like it's about 175 the way he runs and jumps."

And it's just what the NFL wants. Of the nearly 40 receivers at the NFL combine last spring, about 25 stood about 6-2 or taller weighed upward of 215 pounds, Brandt said.

"Fifteen years ago, the average tight end was 6-1, 220 pounds," Brandt said. "Today, the big receivers do what the 5-foot-8 guys used to do."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index