A.J. Williams Seeing Increased Role

With an opening atop Michigan's depth chart, junior A.J. Williams is working to become the Wolverines' top tight end option come fall.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Due to a lack of depth at the position, more is being asked of tight end A.J. Williams now than in years past. During spring practice so far, Williams has begun adjusting to his new role as an upperclassman on "Team 135."

With the move of junior Devin Funchess to wide receiver, the ACL injury to sophomore Jake Butt and the departure of redshirt senior Jordan Paskorz, Williams finds himself as the most experienced healthy tight end on Michigan's roster.

"It's a transition being a leader, being a guy looking up to being able to help up," said Williams. "I think I just give my teammates what I have and I try to spread as much knowledge with everybody."

This transition has occurred slowly as Williams had primarily been used as a blocker in years past. He expects for this to change going forward as he continues to work on his pass-catching with tight end coach Dan Ferrigno.

"When I caught my touchdown last year that was I think the fourth pass I had ever caught in my life," said Williams. "It was definitely a transition finally just being able to get my hand around things, but it came pretty natural. I feel comfortable out there. It's not surprising when the ball comes to me or anything like that. My coach, coach Ferrigno, has done a great job helping me in that role."

For his role in the Wolverines' passing attack to grow, Williams was faced with the task of becoming a more complete tight end, mainly focusing on his pass-catching skills. These changes have happened quickly as Williams is embracing his new opportunity in the Michigan offense.

"I feel a lot more explosive," said Williams. "I feel a lot more quick with my steps when I step off the ball. Also when I'm out wide I get a little more shake off the line now which I'm not accustomed to. I'm used to just bruising and battling down there. It's nice to be able to be light and have those things.

"I was 275 probably at the start of winter conditioning. I dropped down to 360. That's helped with me getting more mobile. Coach Wellman has done a great job with me losing weight. I had to give up the nachos and that's was a big thing. I love nachos. That was my go-to. With all that transition with my body and stuff it has helped me become a better route runner as well."

While Williams is personally experiencing the transition into a larger role this season, the entire Michigan offense is also undergoing a shift as offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier implements his system. To help pick up the new terminology, Williams is using his knowledge of the Wolverines' prior offense as much as possible.

"Everybody offense isn't based off the same things, but there's certain principles that stay the same," said Williams. "I'm able to help with certain principles under the same of last year's offense but also this year's. I offer what I can. It's new to everybody.

"The way Nuss incorporates a naked game off the line, the way the play action is, the way the tight ends use protections. There's all different kind of things that Nuss is doing. The way he's teaching it, he has simplified it for us as much as he can and it's actually coming to us pretty easy."

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