"I'm busting my tail off," Williams said. "I played behind Darrell Blackman last year so I wanted to step into his place. I had to hold my ground and play hard like I'm still a back-up player."
Williams, a redshirt sophomore from Florida, played in 11 games last season but didn't see a lot of balls thrown his way backing up Blackman. He hauled in eight passes for 55 yards, but showed flashes of his full potential when he pulled down a 24-yard reception in the season finale against Maryland. He went into spring practice hoping to earn the starting spot beside Donald Bowens and did just that by the time the spring game rolled around.
"I've been battling since spring, and going into the spring game after they separated the ones from the twos I was with the ones then," Williams said. "So I figured I was still at the one spot but I knew I would have to battle for it."
He came into fall camp this season expecting to have to hold onto his starting spot against a bevy of talented young receivers. What he didn't expect was to also have to help replace a player like Bowens, who was diagnosed with a back injury that will leave him on the sidelines for all of 2008.
"I was looking to have a big year with Donald on the other side of the field," Williams said. "He was a leader on the team and especially the wide receiving corp. I feel like I can help fill in his spot now."
Williams said he knows he can't fill Bowens' spot alone, as the now injured wide receiver was the only game-tested wide-out on the team. But Williams doesn't look at the injury as a problem, but has adopted coach Tom O'Brien's oft-used phrase of ‘one man's misfortune is another man's opportunity.'
"It didn't put any more pressure on me, it just gave me a bigger opportunity – to make more plays, be a role model for the team and help the young guys. Because that's what he was doing when he was out on the field."
At 6'4" and 205 pounds, Williams is actually an inch taller than Bowens. As a former all-state basketball player in high school, he also has the athleticism to go over opposing cornerbacks for jump balls. The redshirt sophomore will have his first chance to seize that opportunity this Thursday, when he faces off against a tough South Carolina defense.
"They have big corners, aggressive, but I'd say our defense is pretty much the same so it isn't going to be anything new to us," Williams said. "We know they are probably gonna try to jam. It's gonna be a battle, we know we have to go out and get them off of us."
Throwing to Williams will be newly minted starting quarterback Russell Wilson. According to Williams, the two have already developed a chemistry from working out together in the spring and summer.
"I'm very comfortable with Wilson," Williams said. "We've been working together over the summer, on our own with the other receivers, just running routes and catching the balls. Getting a feel for how he throws, stuff like that."
He's also gotten a feel for what to do if the play breaks down and Wilson starts to use his legs to make something happen. The coaches have taught the wide receivers how to tell if Wilson is scrambling and how to break off their routes and get open.
"All you have to do when you're running your routes is look and see the defense – their eyes get big and start running down," Williams said. "You know that means Russell's running so you gotta get on your toes, get across the field and get to him."
"All you have to do is run hard, crossing space and let him see you. Don't hold your hand up – that'll get you in trouble – but just run across his face and let him know that you are open."