“Looking around the field, you see things before it happens,” Williams said.
This isn’t an aspect recruiters normally check-off when scouting young running backs. Speed, strength, skill, sure. And to an extend ‘field vision’ can be judged in live action and reactions. But seeing a seer out there?
Don’t worry. It’s all new to Williams too. Only now that he’s transitioned from just hauling the ball around fast as possible, to peeking at the future, does he appreciate the difference.
“Yeah, it was like you could see it before it comes. I don’t know, it’s like a vision or something.”
Mississippi State football fans have their own vision coming into 2015 focus. Or, hope so. Because in a frustrating fall for ground gaining the future could belong to Williams, and classmate Dontavian Lee.
Throwing out the Alabama game, a unique situation in this respect, redshirt frosh Williams had gotten increasing duty since mid-schedule. In the three games preceding Alabama he had gained 99 yards on 20 attempt. And, had just one rush lose ground, which might be more to MSU’s point.
Williams said it all has to do with first, getting used to the game. Getting more comfortable in a real game plan. And then, “Probably having great eyes, that’s about it.”
Back when Williams was running wild for West Point High, great eyes weren’t necessary. He had everything else and more of it than prep peers. Williams said he never had to anticipate…anything.
“At all. We were just running the ball, pound, pound, pound. That’s all we did.” And it worked very well. It took crossing the Oktibbeha County line and his first few college practices to, well, just see a different sort of game.
“When I first got up here, my eyes were bad. When I say having great eyes it’s just looking and scanning the whole field. Like, knowing what’s coming before it even comes.”
OK. So the wise-guy in every fan would respond Williams ought know what’s coming already: a SEC-caliber defender with a bad attitude about ball carriers. Realistically, anticipation is as much a part of playing Bulldog back now as knowing the play count, the steps, the timing, etc.
“And when you have great eyes like that you know what’s coming you can make better runs. And you can pick up blocks so Dak doesn’t get hit.” Yeah, protecting Prescott. That’s of more importance most games than taking a handoff himself.
Interestingly, as this season grinds down Williams’ opportunities to show all his skills increase. Against Alabama he seemed to line-up more often as a split or slot receiver than a running back per se. Some of it was the Crimson Tide’s defense to be sure. Some of it though is the faith State’s staff have in Williams.
“Doing what I need to do every time I get on the field, when my number is called executing my plays,” he said. As to that flanking-out approach, “All our backs can do it. It’s not just one person. We all have to play that role.” Oh, and speaking of roles, Williams does duty on kickoff cover team, a fine comment how his coaches perceive him.
Williams does appreciate the growing trust shown by playing him more and more types of offensive snaps. “It does feel good.” What then must he do to become a real ‘feature’ Bulldog back?
“I think I need to work on having better eyes at my aiming point in the hole. Pressing the hole better, and making defender miss. That’s about it.”
Well, there is one other item.
It’s difficult to forget how after making a big-time run at Texas A&M to reach the red zone and keep State on a comeback track, Williams’ next run ended with a turnover. An Aggie grabbed the arm, the ball came loose, and a Dog drive was done. So was the game.
Then at Missouri, the kid got a little too hasty on an easy sideline pass and just plain dropped the ball. This, too, is a learning experience since up to now everything came so easily.
“I mean, in high school I never really fumbled the ball like that anyway. In high school they don’t be stripping at the ball like they do in college. You have to really focus on protecting the ball and having it high and tight.”
Interestingly, the coaching staff didn’t harp on his turnover at Texas A&M. And Williams has moved on. “They just told me to protect the ball and stuff like that. It’s stuff we worked on in practice that I didn’t catch on to. I’ve caught on to it now and it’s never going to happen again.”
What does need happen again, or more, is a productive Bulldog ground game. Allowing that this is the most efficient and productive passing attack in school history, the rushing hasn’t produced anything near Dan Mullen levels. In fact, State has only three touchdowns scored by running backs all season.
Williams has two of them. So, the second-year freshman can see he’s on the right track.
“I mean, I’m pretty excited. That’s all I can say, I’m pretty blessed,” Williams said. “I’ve just got to go out there, execute my plays right, do everything right on the field, and get more out on plays.”
Now that sounds like a vision for all State folk to share.