Anthony Williams came to Illinois from Chesapeake, Virginia, as a tall, slender receiver prospect. He redshirted while fellow freshmen Darius Millines, Ryan Lankford and Spencer Harris saw playing time last fall. Was it difficult to watch while your buddies played?
"It was at the beginning, but I knew I had to get better and get stronger in the weight room. I need to make more plays to play college football."
Redshirting gave him time to learn more about the craft of receiving.
"I learned the way to lean my body on agility drills, how to get in and out of my cuts, stuff like that."
The 6'-4" Williams has a slender physique that doesn't add weight readily. But the Illini winter conditioning program helped in that regard.
"I've gained about 10 pounds. It makes a lot of difference."
Williams admits the physical training gave him problems at times.
"Yeah it was tough, but I got through it. Coach (Ron) Zook had a talk with me, and I pushed through it."
He was also not accustomed to Illinois winters.
"Yes, it's been cold. But I survived."
At least there was no homesickness. Attending Atlantic Shores for high school solved that problem.
"I went to military school for three years, so I'm used to being away from home. It hasn't been that bad."
Actually, Williams appears to be adjusting and enjoying his college experience.
"I like it a lot. Coaches, school, atmosphere, I like it a lot."
He also feels good about the improvements he's made in his game since last summer.
"It feels good. I feel better about beating the guy in front of me because I've worked on my one-on-one moves. I feel good."
Height is an advantage for a receiver. Williams believes it contributes directly to the things he does best as a receiver.
"Jump ball, fade ball. Vertical routes."
Of course, there's always more to learn.
"I need to work on getting in and out of my breaks, my routes, stuff like that."
Two players come quickly to mind when asked what Illini secondary members give him the most trouble while running pass patterns.
"I'd have to say Tavon (Wilson) and Jack (Ramsey). They're real physical corners. They'll get in your face and try to get their hands on you."
Williams enjoyed the bowl trip last December even though he couldn't play in the game.
"It was very fun. It was a good experience. When I was in warmups, I wished I was playing. But it's okay. It makes me hungry to get to another bowl game."
The youngster is excited about the future of the Illini offense.
"Last year was our first year learning the offense. This year is gonna be better. Everybody's starting to understand the offense, so we'll be very good this year. Last year, we did good toward the end of the year, but this year will be better because we understand the offense way better.
"We feel good. We have a lot of confidence this spring, and we're only gonna build on that going into the fall."
And this year, Williams will have his first chance to play the game he loves.