Coach's Corner

Maybe it's his smile or maybe it's just his overall demeanor, but its hard not to like Husky senior safety Nate Williams. He is very poised and is clearly the most experienced player on the back-end of the defense. Heck, he is the only senior safety on the team. He is a leader and that is obvious in how he interacts with his teammates.

It seems like just yesterday that Nate started his collegiate career by breaking up a touchdown pass to help the Huskies beat Syracuse in their season's opener four years ago. He was a true freshman that day and was actually playing in his first college game. It seemed like such a wonderful start to his collegiate career. And now things come full circle as Williams will again be in the secondary as the Orange hold up their end of that home-home agreement and will face the Huskies at Husky Stadium Saturday afternoon.

At Syracuse he was young then and just learning to embrace his defensive role after a stunning career as a running back at Kennedy High School in Burien. At Kennedy he was named the state's 3A Player of the Year and 1st team All-State. He played defense too for head coach Bob Bourgette, but Nate was known for being the focal point of his offense.

Nate and Mason Foster, Victor Aiyewa, and Vonzell McDowell were all asked to play their freshman years and most of them simply weren't ready. They had no choice. There was no depth in the secondary. In fact, there had only been six total defensive backs practicing the spring before Williams arrived.

Although Williams played early, he is the first to admit that the difference between him then and now is miles apart. He now is the veteran on the back-end, and he has every intention of leading his team to the promised land, which would be defined as his first bowl game. He is very verbal in the secondary calling out sets, motions, and adjustments and generally making sure everyone recognizes situations and aligns properly. He is constantly helping the youngsters while on the filed or on the sidelines. He is a leader in every way.

I also think Nate has made steady progress throughout his collegiate career and actually dropped some pounds and added some muscle going into this season. He worked extremely hard on getting faster, and it shows. As a freshman he was timed in a 4.7 and now runs in the 4.5's. He is lighter, but stronger and obviously older and wiser.

He has really worked hard on two things that I believe will show in this coming season: First is his tackling, and it is obvious that he has improved simply by bending more at his knees rather than at his hips, and wrapping up, where his improved strength really helps him. Second, as I mentioned, is his speed. Never a burner in the first place, taking ticks off his forty means he can close that much faster to the ball. His angles of pursuit have changed. Both of these things will help him, but playing in the same system now for two years probably helps him more. That, and the increase in depth have made the competition on the back-end very intense.

Besides himself, Williams is joined by no less than eight other safeties in the secondary; red-shirted freshman Will Shamburger and sophomore Nate Fellner are battling for the other starting free safety position with Justin Glenn, Greg Walker, and Marquis Persley all in the mix as well. Then add the two new freshmen in Sean Parker and Taz Stevenson (who might have recently moved to running back, we'll see) and you have probably one of the most competitive position areas on the team. Walk-on Ryan McLoughlin rounds out the safeties and he has shown some nice things in camp.

Parker adds a real aggressive hitter to the mix, and even though Stevenson has been dinged in camp, he has a great looking frame and has shown a knack of finding the football. It actually would make sense if Stevenson moved to offense, as there's plenty of safeties already there, and there's a spot open with the running backs with Deontae Cooper having gone under the knife to repair an ACL. Parker most certainly will play and be a contributor this season - as shown by his play at BYU - but that's more due to his own ability than not having anyone at the position, which was the case when Williams and McDowell had to play three years ago as true freshmen.

Nate really likes the two freshmen but totally understands what they're going through what with all the coverages, techniques, and adjustments they must learn. It is all second nature to him now and he thinks that once they too gain an understanding of the mechanics of the coverages then both will become really good safeties.

Nate Williams is already a winner as a person and is determined to be one on the field as well. He will earn his degree on time and is packing everything into this his final season. He adds an element of maturity to an otherwise very young defensive team. Like his fellow seniors, he has more than paid his dues. The past is just that to him, and he looks forward to adding on to his total of 170 tackles that he has accumulated so far as a Husky. He got off to a great start last Saturday in Provo, Utah, racking up 12 tackles - including a tackle for loss - in the Huskies' 23-17 loss at BYU. Like everyone on the Husky defense Nate would also like to add on to his turnover total which stands at only one for both interceptions and fumble recoveries. That was a disappointing statistic against BYU, as the Huskies had a chance at two or three takeaways, but couldn't convert. Nate also had five sacks last season and should also add to that total with his increased speed and strength.

Talking to him though it is easy to see he couldn't care less about individual statistics. He is only interested in the left-hand column and leaving as a winner. He's that kind of guy but I wouldn't be surprised to see him increase all his stats especially when it comes to big plays. Good things happen to good people. This is a good guy and he is going to make good things happen for his team, starting this Saturday against the Orange.

He has been to the well and he knows there's water there. He just wants to drink from the winning side of the cup. Top Stories