Wide receiver Corey Williams is finally showing signs that this may be the season where he lives up to the expectations of Husky fans and coaches alike. Williams wore the gold jersey for the third time straight in practice today. I asked him what wearing the gold jersey means to him.
"It means a lot. It means a lot because the coaches evaluate, they go around the table and everyone says who they think should wear gold, so it means a lot that I'm opening eyes and getting the respect of the coaches. That all the hard work that I've been doing is actually paying off and they (the coaches) are noticing. And I feel like once I have it (the gold jersey) I can't let it go, I can't play it down, when I have that gold jersey on its all eyes on me. I just feel like its added pressure- which I like. I like the pressure of having to perform because I think that that's the way it feels in a game, when all eyes are on you," Williams said
Williams, a second year senior , has struggled with a nagging wrist injury
throughout most of his career at UW. He broke his wrist after running into a wall during the team's 2003 game against Notre Dame. He came back and has been playing since then, but not at full bore- until now.
Both Coach Tyrone Willingham and assistant Tim Lappano have been quoted this month saying that Williams is having the best camp of his career with the Huskies.
Yesterday Williams made an amazing diving catch during practice. Coach Willingham described the catch, and the way Williams has been playing lately, in today's media briefing.
"He made a really circus catch yesterday, one of those fully extended- ball almost touches the ground- cradles it under- it was a great catch. He's doing those kinds of things and doing the routine plays. It does us no good if you can do the spectacular yet you drop the routine ball. And he seems to playing at that high level and we have that high level of expectation,"
Williams had a smile on his face as he described the catch to me.
"I beat the corner pretty bad and the ball was overthrown. I knew it was overthrown. I knew there was no way I was going to catch it and stay up so I dove, threw my arms out there, it stuck right in my hands and I grabbed it, and rolled over, perfect. It felt good. I've caught a lot of balls. I think I've had a lot of good catches in practice, but I think that catch right there was the one that I will remember the most from a practice. I was really pumped up and I think everyone was pumped up
after that catch," said Williams.
Williams is one of five senior receivers, along with Quintin Daniels, Cody Ellis, Marcel Reece, and Anthony Russo. Russo is out with a broken pinkie right now, although the doctors remain hopeful that he will be able to play the opener on August 31st. With questions remaining unanswered regarding who will play the starting quarterback position, these receivers are expected to begin developing the spine which coaches and fans hope will support this year's team.
Coach Willingham spoke about these senior receivers today in his media briefing.
"I hope that that group takes a real competitive look at everyday that they step onto that field and that when Marcel (Reece) makes a great play that challenges Corey (Williams) to step up and make a great play, and Corey challenges Anthony (Russo) to make the routine, to make the great play, that the guy that you haven't heard much of just does a wonderful job, a steady job. Quintin Daniels does the same thing; Cody Ellis will step up and play."
"That's a group that's been around football here for a while and we need them to lead by performance, example, and verbally," Willingham told the media.
With Williams playing so well in practice, and Anthony Russo maybe not making the season opener against Syracuse, a lot is riding on Williams right now. I asked Williams how he's dealing with the pressure.
"I don't see it as pressure; I see it more as opportunity. With Anthony (Russo) going down I stepped into the starting spot, and I have to perform. I know they're counting on me to perform because Anthony is a great
receiver, he's been consistent throughout his career, and I'm sure they're looking forward to him coming back- but in the meantime I have to step in there and do this job. As long as I'm in there I'm going to do the job, and when he comes back it's just going to make us that much stronger," said Williams.
Williams is on track to becoming a vital part of the Husky offense this year, and if practice is any indication, maybe making an ESPN highlight-reel worthy catch or two.