Redshirt freshman Dae Williams has been a pleasant surprise for the University of Louisville football team this spring.
The running back from Sapulpa, Okla., was only listed as a two-star prospect coming out of high school, but he ran for 1,673 yards and scored 19 touchdowns in his senior season. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry that year.
Williams’ strong build and powerful running style give the Louisville offense another option at the running back position.
"We have a lot of variety,” Williams said. “We have the speed backs, and then we’ve got Jeremy (Smith) who kind of does it all, and then I guess you can call me the power back. I would say we have a pretty wide variety of backs right now.”
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound running back Williams has impressed Louisville’s running backs coach Kolby Smith with his play in the spring. Smith says he pushes Williams every day in practice to get the most out of him.
“I see a young man with a lot of talent,” Smith said. “He’s powerful, he’s strong, and he just plays the game the way it needs to be played. He’s learning the little things that he needs to learn at his position to make him better each and every day.”
Williams joins a running back corps that includes senior Jeremy Smith and sophomore Trey Smith. Jeremy Smith has the most experience out of the group.
Smith ran for 382 yards and was second on the team in rushing touchdowns last season (8) behind quarterback Lamar Jackson. He also caught 18 passes for 227 yards and recorded one receiving touchdown.
Jeremy Smith came into the spring as the projected starting running back, but due to an injury he has missed time. Coach Smith says that the running backs are still competing for the starting role.
“They are all working for it,” Smith said. “We have the spring, the summer, and the fall camp to decide on who’s going to be the starter. They know it’s a competition so that’s why they work so hard each and every day.”
Dae Williams made his case for the starting position as he exploded for four touchdowns in Louisville’s first scrimmage at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium last week. Williams has received most of the first-string carries in place of the injured Jeremy Smith.
With Smith sidelined, Williams says that he has had to learn how to find success on consecutive plays when he is fatigued.
“They are putting me in a lot of different situations where I’m getting three or four carries and having to make decisions and make reads,” Williams said. “That was something that I didn’t have to worry about in high school because I didn’t really get tired like that.”
In addition to his increased workload carrying the ball, Williams has also had to learn the importance of blocking at the running back position.
“In high school I got the ball all the time,” Williams said. “We didn’t really throw the ball, so now I’m learning that the most important thing is keeping Lamar safe. I know coach always says, ‘If you don’t block, you’re not going to play,’ so that’s one thing that I’m really trying to get better at.”
Williams says he is excited to play alongside Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson because of the attention that Jackson generates from defenses.
“It’s nice because it’s a two-headed monster,” Williams said. “Our defense is focused on him so that opens up holes for me when they think he is going to run the ball.”