The difference is simple. Williams was healthy this summer after recovering completely from a hairline fracture in his shin, an injury that kept him out of most of spring practices.
"The previous summers I really held off a lot of the running stuff," Williams said. "But this summer I did everything."
The result? Williams put on eight pounds of muscle this summer and now has 180 pounds on his 5-foot-11 frame. But even more noticeable was the added burst in his running stride this camp.
"I've seen and I've felt that big time," Williams said. "And coming into camp I felt like I was a lot quicker, a lot stronger… That's the way it should be like. I should be bigger, faster, stronger. And I finally got to work out in the offseason so I am bigger, faster, stronger."
The same stress fracture to his right shin that limited Williams this spring kept him out of all of spring practices in 2004 and restricted him that summer. But he has still been a productive player for UW. Williams has led the team in receptions two of the past three seasons, pacing the Badgers in receptions (42) and receiving yards (517) yards last year.
Williams needs just 33 catches this season to top Lee Evans' school-record career total (175), and he is seventh all-time in receiving yards at UW (1,829).
"He's such a competitive player," quarterback John Stocco said. "It's great having a guy out there that's just so competitive. He wants to make a play so bad and that's great to have a receiver like that. You know you can just throw it up there for him and he'll go make a play for you."
Williams, though, has only scored four touchdowns in a UW uniform, and he has not reached the end zone since the sixth game of the 2003 season.
But in camp Williams was making more big plays than usual, and was stretching the field with unexpected regularity.
"He's healthy and that's helped him a lot," Stocco said. "And you can see that in camp."
"More so than anything, just mentally he came into camp feeling like he was 100 percent," wide receivers coach Henry Mason said. "He was ready to go and really the first time he's been that way for the last couple of years."
Williams was also the Badgers' most consistent receiver throughout camp. In fact, his steady play and sure hands were what earned him the punt return and kick return roles, in addition to being UW's No. 1 receiver.
This will be the fourth year Williams has been the Badgers' kick returner; with 1,733 yards entering the season, he needs just 46 yards to set a new UW career record in that specialty.
Williams said his time at UW has gone by quickly and he is excited to take the field for his final season.
"I want to make the best of every time I step on the field, every time I strap the pads up, because who knows? This could be the last time," he said. "I just want to play my hardest. And I'm very excited. This day has came so quickly. I just was a freshman it seems to me. But now I'm a senior so I've got to lay it all on the line."