Perplexing Kristoff Williams shines again

IT'S NOT LIKE he's D.B. Cooper. But facts are facts: Kristoff Williams is a mysterious dude. The fourth-year junior receiver lit up Albi Stadium on Saturday with seven catches for 136 yards and one TD. It was his second big scrimmage in a row. But here's the kicker: In practices this spring he hasn't stood out in the slightest way.

In fact, he at times looked apprehensive in practice sessions, with coaches critical of his hands and hesitancy to use his body as a weapon.

But turn on the scoreboard and that all clearly changes.

Williams appears to be the Mother of All Gamers.

The issue may be where he fits into the Cougars' offense this fall.

Sophomore Gabe Marks, who caught 11 passes for 107 yards and two TDs on Saturday, had a spectacular spring and looks poised for to contend for all-conference honors. Third-year sophomore Dominique Williams has also proven he can be a quality Pac-12 receiver. Moreover, incoming Vince Mayle has been advertised as one of the best junior college receivers in the country, and figures to vie for immediate playing time.

But if the 6-2, 216-pound Williams continues to produce like his did Saturday, none of those names will overshadow this physically stout wideout. He's beginning to transform into the big, outside threat Paul Wulff and his staff envisioned him becoming when he arrived on campus in 2009. After Marquess Wilson's booming freshman year, scouts and coaches suggested Williams might be at the level, if not better than Wilson.

Time will tell if those words ring true.

LET'S TALK FOR A MOMENT ABOUT the running game. The Cougs again saw marginal success between the hashes. Mike Breske's defense ran a base set virtually all afternoon, and clearly saw what plays were coming before the ball was snapped, so it may still be too early to tell whether this team will be able to run against the Pac-12.

One thing is for certain. Third-year sophomore running back Jeremiah Laufasa, formally a walk-on, is far more than a "try-hard" player as the Pac-12 Network's Curtis Conway so regally put it.

Laufasa is a bruiser. The team seems to lack a player who can pound the ball forward for good yards, so Coug fans might want to get used to seeing him in the backfield.

Don't get me wrong, sophomore Teondray Caldwell is the starter, and will remain the starter until fall camp breaks. But Laufasa offers the ability to get the short yards, and has great feet for a guy of his size. Laufasa may end up being a poor man's Jermaine Green. He's a big guy, but more nimble than originally imagined.

As for the ever-publicized quarterback competition, fourth-year junior Connor Halliday and redshirt freshman Austin Apodaca both had their ups and downs, but if Saturday reaffirmed anything, it's that Apodaca's athletic ability will push Halliday this fall.

Apodaca has moments of brilliance scrambling out of the pocket and making things happen. His accuracy and chemistry with receivers is not there just yet, and that is palpably obvious. With an offseason of skeleton, and a few months buried in the playbook, anything can happen.

However protecting Halliday and Apodaca may be where the true test is. Even Michael Vick's outrageous athletic ability wouldn't have been worth a dime Saturday as the offensive lines couldn't protect a dollar with a cast-iron safe.

The most disappointing performance may have belonged to junior offensive lineman Jacob Seydel. He performed admirably this spring, but looked lost Saturday at right tackle and never really found his bearings.

I had Seydel as surrendering three sacks, as well as jumping the gun early twice, triggering two false starts.

ON THE DEFENSIVE SIDE OF THE BALL, third-year sophomore nose tackle Darryl Paulo reiterated to everyone he has the ability to play the middle, shutting down an anemic Cougar run game and adding a sack to boot.

In essence, the scrimmage was a direct reflection on how this spring has gone for the Cougs. The defense got the best of a still sputtering offense, and Leach and company are still looking for answers to kick-start a ‘prodigious' Air Raid offense.

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