Fast Climber

Sophomore linebacker Reed Williams played on special teams last year as a true freshman, but he's not satisfied with that accomplishment. This year, he is hoping to play what he calls "real football" – and if he continues to play as he has so far this year, he will likely achieve that goal this fall.

"I didn't have any aspirations toward playing early," Williams said of his expectations when he came to West Virginia just eight months ago. "I just tried to come in and play hard and show something that would get me on the field."

Williams certainly did that, impressing the coaching staff with his pursuit speed and tackling ability – traits that landed him a spot on special teams. But while that achievement might have been enough for most players, it obviously wasn't for the Moorefield, W. Va. native, who views special teams as something different than regular plays from scrimmage.

It's not that Williams doesn't understand or appreciate the importance of special teams. He certainly put all of his effort into his duties a year ago. It's just that he wants to play at a linebacker spot, where he's involved in the action on as many snaps as possible.

"Right now I just want to get on the field," Williams said as he talked about earning snaps on defense. Special teams are fun, but it's not like playing linebacker. I really want to get out there and play some real ball."

Williams' enthusiasm for being part of the action is another reason he's likely to be in the mix for time with the defensive regulars this fall. He has already learned the middle linebacker spot, and is now learning the outside positions this spring. That process will certainly give him more opportunities to play, and could wind up making him a very valuable cog in WVU's linebacker rotation this fall.

"I started out at middle linebacker, and that's helped a lot in learning everything," Williams explained as he described his learning process. "Moving outside was an easier step because I already know the blitz calls and the coverages from being a mike backer. The mike backer is more in-depth with everything so it's a little easier moving to the outside.

"It's really starting to get all mental," he said of the process of learning new positions. "You are trying to get everything right. Scrimmages are times when you are trying to get everything down, so you can just relax and play ball."

Of course, playing more than one position carries the potential for confusion, and Williams has to concentrate to make sure he's executing correctly at the position he is playing. However, the threat of retribution has kept him from making any such mistakes so far.

"Oh no, you don't want to do that," Williams laughed when asked about that situation. "You don't want to have to go stand beside the coaches if you do make a mistake like that."

Williams hasn't made many mistakes this spring, and part of the reason for that consistency could be the experience he gained last year as a freshman. Although the majority of his snaps came on special teams, Williams still got a good deal of practice work at linebacker. Those repetitions may have helped him get off to the great start he has enjoyed this spring.

"It helped me understand this defense of Coach Casteel's," Williams mused. "I'm finally getting a handle on everything, and now we can get in there and cause some trouble for the offense. I'm really liking this system."

"You kind of miss that redshirt year, though, because you can get more mental things done," Williams said as he analyzed the possible benefits of not playing. "But I think it helped from the physical aspect more than anything. You can get out there with the big dogs and let them beat you around a little bit, and you get used to it."

Williams showed just how the combination of experience and knowledge of the system have benefited him in Saturday's scrimmage, as he sprinted off the corner and broke up an option pitch from Pat White. He blazed into the backfield so quickly that White never saw him coming, and thus was able to get a hand on the pitch and break it up. Afterward, he downplayed the effort while displaying a controlled outlook on what he needs to do to continue his march up the depth chart.

"You just have to keep trying and give it your all and see if you can get the coach liking you," he said without a trace of irony. "You try to get the edge on someone and then go from there. I just do what I do, and hopefully they will like it."

So far in Williams' career, there certainly has been a lot to like. And if his play continues at this pace, there will be a lot more people liking it very soon.

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