UK Football: Williams stays hungry as Wildcats' No. 1 tailback
CoShik Williams, right, has moved up to the No. 1 tailback position on Kentucky¿s depth chart after rushing for 486 yards last season. He scored the game-winning touchdown in the Wildcats¿ season-ending win over Tennessee. (Clay Jackson / April 8, 2012)
He had just 38 carries in two seasons after coming to Kentucky as a walk-on tailback from Hiram, Ga., where he ran for more than 1,000 yards in each of his final two high school seasons.
It took injuries to the Wildcats’ top three tailbacks for Williams to get his chance last season, and when he did, he made the most of it. He ran for 148 yards in a win over Jacksonville State. He had 111 yards and two touchdowns against Mississippi. Even better, he got 68 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown against Tennessee.
That’s why he went into spring practice at No. 1 on the depth chart — a spot he plans to keep.
“It has been real good, getting that starting role you have to know your assignments and everything like that. It is a lot different from last year, looking up and seeing what I had to do to get to that No. 1 spot. Now that I am at the spot, doing everything perfect, it’s different,” Williams said Friday.
Williams succeeded last year with a reckless, all-out style. He didn’t hesitate when hitting a hole in the line and seldom ran sideways, a philosophy that resulted in him making big plays but also taking big hits at times.
“It is still the same mentality just like if I am not at the No. 1 spot. I am still chasing for No. 1. I try to stay hungry for every opportunity I get,” he said. “I know the guys who are the bottom are always pushing to be No. 1 just like I was. You have to know that and know you have to do extra to keep everyone off you because of what people will do to be No 1. Guys below me are just waiting for a perfect opportunity like I was. When that opportunity comes, they will step up and be ready.
“The coaches never say anything about my running style, so hopefully that is a good thing. I am going to keep on running wild, and hopefully it will turn out for the best.”
Williams was limited in Saturday’s scrimmage by what coach Joker Phillips called a “banged-up shoulder” that the coach said would not be a long-term issue.
“He’s a tough guy. His presence is good for us offensively. He’ll be ready for our next scrimmage,” Phillips said.
Williams doesn’t plan to give up his starting spot. He added 13 pounds in the offseason thanks to a smarter diet that often included peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches.
“I was a little small last year, so I wanted to gain weight and did,” said Williams, who ran for 486 yards and three touchdowns and caught 19 passes for 70 yards in 2011. “I tried to eat a good calorie diet. I ate, like, peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and stuff like that. It won’t put too much fat on me, just more protein and muscle so I won’t lose my speed. I had to learn to like peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches. I wasn’t that crazy about it. It was something new for me, but it was good for me.
“It will help me out with the linebackers you have to deal with in the SEC and the physical play. The coaching staff thinks it will help me out a lot.”
Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders is a believer that the added weight and strength will help Williams.
“I thought last year when he played he did very well. He was a good pass-receiver last year but was not the weapon we need him to be as a pass-receiver. He does a good job running the ball, did a good job picking up blitzes and things like that. I think there is more opportunities for him in the passing game than what we got out of him last season,” Sanders said.
“It is amazing for running backs. I have always said they have to be genetically superior because anybody else that gets hit low from behind, they call clipping. Running back gets hit low from behind, they call it a tackle. Somebody grabs them high and hits them low, everybody else on field that is a chop-block. For running back, that is a tackle. You have to be genetically superior just to hold up.
“After guys play and they play week in, week out and they understand the pounding the body takes, they understand how they have to condition their body to get ready for a season.
“I think Coshik, after playing last year, understands that he had to take his conditioning level to a much higher level than what it was. You can’t survive at that position being in the same shape as everybody else. You have to be beyond that. He understands that now.”
Williams says a year ago he had to think about how to do things like picking up blitzes. Now he says he knows immediately what to do.
“Being the No. 1 guy is not easy. You have a lot of responsibility, so it is a lot different than last year for me,” he said. “I wouldn’t say the coaches treat me different. I would just say they look at me more as a leader, somebody that is supposed to know what to do, know their job, know the opportunity ahead.”
He says a lot of teammates now consider him a team leader.
“Especially a lot of the young guys coming in. Some of those guys, I try to lead them and show them around and stuff like that. I think a lot of my players and teammates look at me as a leader like that this year that didn’t last year,” Williams said.
“I would not say I feel a lot more pressure, but I do feel some pressure. There is always going to be some. I do feel some pressure, but it’s not a whole bunch. I am not a guy that worries about numbers. I am just trying to play and enjoy and do what is best for the team.”
However, the former walk-on won’t deny it would be a team come true if he’s still No. 1 and gets to start the season-opening game against Louisville.
“I always had the dream of starting at a big-time school, and this (would) be my first opportunity to start an opening game if it comes, and Louisville on top of that would be great,” Williams said. “I give nothing but 100 percent for this opportunity. I am blessed for the opportunity I am receiving and everything that goes with it.”