No holding back: Williams in gear

After missing the first half of spring with an injury, senior receiver is catching up to speed

A year ago Brandon Williams did not take a single snap in the University of Wisconsin football team's spring practices. A stress fracture in his shin that required offseason surgery made sure of that.

This spring the same hairline fracture that put him on the mend last time around reared its ugly head, but this year the senior-to-be was able to recover in time to take part in spring workouts. After missing the first six practices of spring, Williams has been available for three of the past four, including two consecutive.

"We are on schedule," Williams said following practice Friday, the first time he has been available to the media this spring. "This is exactly how we kind of mapped it out and I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing."

Williams' first priority this spring is getting accustomed to the offensive variations UW has installed under new co-offensive coordinator and passing game coordinator Paul Chryst, including an emphasis on timing patterns, which puts pressure on receivers to get to a spot at a fairly precise moment so the quarterback can deliver the ball in rhythm.

"That's one of the biggest things with a receiver and a quarterback is getting that timing," Williams said. "The receivers on the whole are really starting to get on the same page with the quarterbacks and getting everything forward instead of standing in a standstill."

Williams said that while he expects the changes in UW's offense to cause headaches for opposing defenses this fall, the alterations have not been difficult to grasp. Still, he said it was important for him to take part in spring workouts in order to get the timing down.

Said UW receivers coach Henry Mason: "We are doing a couple new things offensively so I think from that standpoint it is important to get him back and get him some reps and get him to see where it is just so he can have some kind of a comfort level when he gets in training camp in the fall."

"This is going to be a real big summer," Williams said of the adjustments. "This is the last go round. This is for everything, it is all the marbles. I'm going to be putting in extra, extra hours."

Williams is still rehabbing his injured shin but so far his progression has been on par.

"It is always a concern in the back of your mind when you have an injury," he said. "But I'm trying to put it behind me, trying to get 100 percent and hopefully this is the final stretch of this injury."

"I'm having positive results," he said. "It looked good on the x-rays. Everything's pretty much healing like we expected it to. So hopefully it will just keep on healing and be nothing."

Williams has never been one to back down from a challenge, or an opportunity to get on the field. And that may be a major reason he has battled the stress injury in his leg. In addition to leading UW in receiving two of the past three seasons, Williams has served as the Badgers' kick returner for the past three years. As a sophomore, he also played cornerback at times.

But do not expect Williams to pare his workload, or UW's coaching staff to whisper in his ear that he should back off a little, preserving himself for his receiving duties. That would be anathema to Williams' persona.

"Oh no," Williams said when asked if he might back off. "I want to get the ball as many times and as many ways as I possibly can. If I have to play defense, I'll play defense again. That's not a problem."

For the record, it does not appear that UW will have any need for Williams at corner this year, but the Badgers still may use him as a kick returner and he could possibly win the punt returning job as well.

"The more times he is on the field he's a better player," Mason said. "If we need to control that, we'll control that as coaches. I want him to want to do everything, just like I want him to… every time a ball is thrown I want him to think he is going to catch it every time.

"If we feel like he is being overloaded then we'll do something about it but I don't want his attitude to change."

Williams, who already holds the top two single-season kick return yardage marks in UW history, needs just 46 more yards to break Nick Davis' career mark (1,778). He wants to achieve that milestone and he also reiterated a desire to take over the punt returning job vacated by departed senior Jim Leonhard.

Said Williams: "I want to do punt returns. I want to do kick returns too. I almost have the record for the school. So of course I want to keep that going. I've been waiting to be the punt returner for three years. I don't want to just give that up. I think that is something that I need to do as far as trying to get a look at the next level."

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