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The Senior Bowl will provide a chance for Vikings coach Leslie Frazier to observe his new staff, including new defensive coordinator Alan Williams (right).

Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

VIKINGS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ALAN WILLIAMS

Senior Bowl: 3 p.m. Saturday at Mobile, Ala. • TV: NFL Network

Vikings' new hire Williams not rushing things

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER
  • Star Tribune
  • January 26, 2012 - 6:52 AM

MOBILE, ALA. - Go ahead. Fire the direct questions at Alan Williams. He knows they're coming.

As the new Vikings defensive coordinator, Williams understands it's imperative he establish a voice. And soon.

It's his turn now to plot the master plan for a defensive rebirth. But only if he can successfully pick off the myriad questions that have greeted him at the doorstep of his new job.

So about that NFL coaching experience, those 10 consecutive seasons working with defensive backs in Indianapolis ... What took the 42-year-old so long to move on and move up?

"People can easily forget why you coach," Williams said. "You coach to win championships. You coach to help people improve. And that's what I was doing in Indianapolis. There's a fulfillment to that. I don't know that anyone gets into coaching with a narrow focus of 'I just want to move up.' For 10 years, Indy fit my needs. We were winning. I was developing good players. So I stayed."

OK, but with this new opportunity in Minnesota, now what? How will the new defensive setup work, with Williams holding the title as coordinator but coach Leslie Frazier vowing to be heavily involved -- like a driver's ed instructor with his own steering wheel and brake pedal?

"We're a long way from finalizing that," Williams said. "But I can say I have no reservations -- none -- about Les having input. He's a terrific communicator. And he's a coach who no matter the talent of a guy, when they finish up with him, they're better."

Oh, and one other trivial footnote -- only because it's bound to come up eventually. With Williams dwarfed by his defensive players at this week's Senior Bowl, just how tall is he really?

"Five-seven and three-quarters," he asserted. "Plus I'm still waiting to see if there might be a late growth spurt."

For a little guy in a behemoth's world, he hopes for a coaching growth spurt, too.

Plus, for all the recent coordinator changes across the NFL, Williams is the only one who has had this Senior Bowl experience to assert himself and begin establishing coaching chemistry.

"That is as important as what we're going to do with our players in the fall," Frazier said. "Because they'll really follow our lead as coaches. So this is a chance for Alan to get a head start on OTAs and minicamps. ... I think this gives us a leg up as a staff as we're trying to develop and really chart the course for where we want to be from a defensive standpoint."

With that head start, Williams has promised not to rush ahead, affixing a four-word philosophy to his Senior Bowl work: "Be where we're at."

So if you're looking for details into what exactly he plans to do schematically, if you're curious as to how he perceives the Vikings depth chart, that research barely has begun.

"This is crucial for me: Be where we're at," Williams said. "Right now, we're at the Senior Bowl. So we need to take care of our responsibilities in this environment and focus directly on evaluating these guys. That way, when it comes time to make some big decisions in the draft, we've put our work in."

In the week since hiring Williams, Frazier has reminded his protégé to look at this as a clean slate, to recognize the Vikings personnel and system but to offer fresh ideas, new wrinkles and a distinct philosophy.

Williams said he will offer a similar message to Vikings players, discarding reputations, shoveling dirt on 2011 and promising a new opportunity for guys to prove themselves.

"The slate is clean," he said. "I think the worst thing I could do is have preconceived notions of who someone is as a player. Especially now. Time is on our side. So why not do my due diligence?"

Yes, those big initial questions -- Williams' inexperience as a coordinator, his yet-to-be-specified authority and heck, even the height thing -- likely will be discussed until hard-copy results materialize.

But during his first week on the job, Williams is earning the confidence of his assistants.

Said defensive backs coach Joe Woods: "All players want to know are the things you can teach them to help them make plays. That's it. They don't care who you are. If you get in front of that room and you spit knowledge and they know you know what you're talking about, that's all that matters. I don't care if it's a rookie or Jared Allen, your knowledge and your ability to teach breeds respect. Alan has that."

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