Moorefield's Reed Williams, a surprise from the start because of his underrated speed and the overrated obstacle of the transition from a Class A West Virginia high school to major college athletics, has moved to co-starter status. Has proven he can play on this level. And has proven, while not yet an equal, a solid addition to all-Big East linebackers Boo McLee and Jay Henry.
Williams mans the middle and strongside linebacker spot, allegedly behind Henry and fellow in-state player Marc Magro (University High, Morgantown, W.Va.) and Bobby Hathaway, respectively. But Williams has been on the field more than a second or third-string slot would indicate, and he ranks 17th on the team in tackles with five, four of which are solo and has a pass breakup on a well-played deflection in the second quarter against East Carolina. His main weapon, besides possessing the must-have abilities to understand the 3-3-5 odd stack scheme and get to the football through traffic, is an uncanny knack for game speed.
At 6-2 and 235 pounds, Williams doesn't possess the 4.5 flat 40-yard dash time of some linebackers, like athletic Mississippi State counterpart Quinton Culberson. But, as one once said of Chicago Bear great Dick Butkus, sideline-to-sideline and 10 yards down or upfield, there are few faster. Williams' read-and-react quickness gives him an edge, and the Moorefield High grad squeezes every bit out of it he can at the strongside (Sam) ‘backer spot and when he mans the Mike, usually as part of No. 4 WVU's special tactics SWAT team.
"The jitters are all out now," Williams said. "The more you play, the more comfortable you get in the system and you can just go and play, read and react without thinking."
Yet the latter has been what Williams did most during the off week when prepping for MSU and scrambling signalcaller Omarr Conner, who has rushed for two scores, thrown for another and possesses the same broken play ability of West Virginia quarterback Patrick White.
"We got that extra week to prepare a bit, so we have seen more of them then we usually do an opponent," Williams said. "It's the SEC. They have speed and athletes. It doesn't matter what the record says, they have the capability of beating us. I have been looking at specifics, like plays and things, so I can't tell exactly why they are not wining games. But it's not because of their quarterback.
With him, you don't have to worry about just one aspect, but two. Even if we have good coverage, he can get out and run. We have to get him on the ground. He has played receiver, so he has moves and speed. He can get out of the pocket, and if he does we'll have to chase him down and try to knock the ball out a bit. He is a quarterback, so hopefully we can take advantage. But in Division I football, arm tackling is basically out the window. You have to set your feet and ready your body. We'll try and control him."
Much of that will come down to the edge, where Williams most plays. If West Virginia (4-0) can force the Bulldogs (1-4) into third and long, Williams will be the lone linebacker on the field for the SWAT package. His speed, and the fact that he plays fewer snaps because of his duel reserve roles, make him the perfect fit for the four-linemen, one-LB, six-secondary player alignment. Through four games, the SWAT has been a large reason the Mountaineers have kept foes from converting on 32 of 55 third downs (a 41.8 percent conversion rate). WVU is 22 of 41 (53.6 percent).
"They have given me the chance to play and hopefully I am doing some things that show I deserve that chance," Williams said. "This is a big week. We had an opportunity to play in hot weather against a team that tried to knock us off our pedestal and now Mississippi State will be trying to do the same thing. I can't see (lethargic play) happening. We kept our physicality and intensity in the off week and we'll try to keep it going now."