Now in a time of need, junior Jovon Williams is poised to fill the void.
When the Covina, Calif. product signed with Arizona State in 2005 he was relatively unknown. Williams recalled his critics claiming he was not big enough to play tight end and too slow to be a wide receiver. After redshirting in 2005, Williams spent the 2006 season on the scout team and played sparingly last year. The lack of playing time frustrated Williams, but he never let the time spent on the bench make him question his abilities.
"It has been tough, but I just feel fortunate to be here," said Williams. "I've had some good players in front of me to learn from and take after. I'm just really excited to get out there and show everyone what I can do."
The increased workload for the junior has yielded positive results. After spring ball and the involuntary workouts in summer, quarterback Rudy Carpenter could not help but single out Williams as someone that had drastically improved from 2007. Williams attributes his rapid development to two things, the first being a better connection with Carpenter.
"Overall, I've just improved my relationship with Rudy (Carpenter)," he noted. "Coming up, I obviously didn't get a lot of practice with (Rudy) because I was a little behind some of the other tight ends. But we worked together and got a lot done this year."
The second factor that contributed heavily to his maturation and growth was the arrival of tight ends coach Dan Cozzetto last year. Seeing the potential Williams possessed and just how valuable an asset he would be in the spread offense, Cozzetto challenged the junior, on and off the field.
"(Coach Cozzetto) improved my game by making me grow up," Williams stated. "He's a very hard-nosed coach, but he's very down to earth. Away from football, away from the game, he's a friend. But when it's time to go, it's all about business, and that's what I like."
Standing at 6'4", 231 pounds, Williams has been compared favorably to former Sun Devil Tyrice Thompson. Thompson played the role of receiving tight end in last year's offense and found success as his unique combination of size and athleticism created mismatches with many opposing linebackers and safeties.
However, there is one area where Williams hopes to outgrow the comparisons to Thompson, and that is blocking. Williams openly admits that he is a better receiver than blocker, but embraces the challenge of improving in that area and cites it as an aspect of his game he is focusing on the most.
When talking about goals for himself this year, instead of listing off individual statistics, the junior showed a refreshing attitude of humility and unselfishness.
"The personal goals I have for this season are just to do whatever I can to help out the team and coaches," said Williams. "I want to be able to do whatever (the coaches) need me to do and just to be here for my teammates."
While his personal goals may humble, the goals Williams has for his team are more audacious. "Pac-10 champions", "Rose Bowl", "BCS" were a few of the words that passed through him as he spoke enthusiastically of the 2008 season.
Now that he has his chance, confidence is exuding from Williams and his cool demeanor suggests that he welcomes, and even perpetuates, the lofty expectations following him and his team.
"We have a great team. The expectations are high, and they should be," he said.