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Coach 'comfortable' with much-arrested prospect

7/25/2004 - Miami Hurricanes

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Coach Larry Coker insists that Miami's
recruitment of a top football prospect with numerous legal troubles
won't undo the Hurricanes' years of hard work in cleaning up their
act.

Willie Williams, regarded as the nation's best high school
linebacker, was sentenced to probation twice in the past month for
separate crimes -- including an incident during a recruiting trip to
rival Florida. He has been arrested 11 times since 1999.

Miami officials are considering whether to admit the 19-year-old
Williams.

Miami's administration still stings from the program's excesses
of the 1980s and '90s. Under head coaches Jimmy Johnson and Dennis
Erickson, the Hurricanes were known as winners on the field and
renegades off it. The NCAA eventually punished the program with a
one-year bowl ban, three years of probation and the loss of dozens of
scholarships.

"We have worked very hard to create a clean image at the
University of Miami," Coker told a meeting of the Florida Sports
Writers Association. "And that's why we've been very careful about
recommending to admit Willie Williams."

Last month, 6-foot-2, 225-pound Williams pleaded no contest
to a felony count of setting off fire extinguishers at a
Gainesville hotel and misdemeanor battery for hugging a woman
without her permission. He received a year's probation for each
plea stemming from the Jan. 30 incident.

"I'm very comfortable with what I know about the reasons we
signed Willie Williams, the progress he's made and the things he
can bring, not only on the football field," Coker said. "I'd like
to see a very positive, positive outcome when Willie Williams is
admitted to the university."