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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Scenery change suits DE

Ex-Husker Josh Williams hopes to make most of final season

Defensive end Josh Williams, a fifth-year senior who played three years at Nebraska, takes a break during practice Monday, Aug. 6, 2012, at the KU practice fields.

Defensive end Josh Williams, a fifth-year senior who played three years at Nebraska, takes a break during practice Monday, Aug. 6, 2012, at the KU practice fields.

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Defensive end Josh Williams, a fifth-year senior who played three years at Nebraska, takes a break during practice Monday, Aug. 6, 2012, at the KU practice fields.

When Josh Williams reached the end of his rope with the Nebraska football program, he had no idea what was next.

“Disturbing” is the word Kansas University’s fifth-year senior transfer used to describe the feeling of uncertainty that came after his dismissal from the Cornhuskers last January. But while trying times tested his mental toughness, Williams said he never worried about getting another chance.

The opportunity that followed was better than anything he imagined.

“I figured I would go somewhere and play,” he said. “But I didn’t know that it would be under coach (Charlie) Weis and coach (Dave) Campo here at Kansas.”

Once KU became involved, things moved quickly.

Weis was brutally honest with Williams when the two first talked. The first-year KU coach explained to Williams there were guidelines and insisted there would be rules but added that, if Williams toed the line, the reward could be great, and he could once again be on the path to realizing his goal of playing in the NFL.

“That’s a big positive,” Williams said. “But more than their connections and experience, I think the knowledge they can teach me was big, as well.”

When the time to say yes to Kansas presented itself, Williams said he went for it immediately and did not consider the make-up of KU’s roster or the situation he was leaping into.

“That wasn’t really much of a thought of mine,” Williams said. “Wherever I was gonna go, I knew I was gonna give it my all and do my best. When I talked to them, the coaches said I had an opportunity to come in and help this team, so I jumped on that ship.”

Since then, it has been smooth sailing for the 6-foot-4, 255-pound defensive end originally from Shreveport, La., who starred at Ryan High in Denton, Texas.

He is listed as a starter on KU’s most recent depth chart and has become a leader in practice.

“What I’ve seen so far, I’ve liked,” said KU defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt, who recruited Williams to Nebraska out of high school and was instrumental in making the connection this time around. “I think he brings some experience and some confidence to our meeting room. And when we go out there on the field you can hear him making some comments about, ‘Watch this,’ and, ‘Look out for this,’ and those things really have helped our unit become better.”

Added Campo: “I know he’s a good football player. I’m happy he’s here. You can tell he’s a fifth-year senior that has aspirations of playing beyond here.”

Williams, who played his first snap at defensive end back in middle school and has loved every snap since a little more, credits the KU players for making the transition so painless.

“I think I did need a change of scenery,” he said. “And it’s helped out a lot. It’s been great being with these guys. They’ve accepted me and taken me in, and I really just want to be there as a leader for them.”

That’s the area in which Williams has focused much of his time so far in preseason camp. After playing in 26 games — including two starts — with Nebraska during the past two seasons, the former Husker believes he has something to offer the KU program. And even though he will only be here for one year, Williams said he already feels like a part of something special.

“It’s my senior year, it’s my last year, and this senior class wants to go off with a bang,” he said. “We’ll be the start to that build-up.”

As for his own personal goals this year, Williams said he would let his play speak for him.

“I just want to go out and have a big year,” he said, “just go out with a bang and have the best year that I can have.”

Toben the talker

KU D-line coach Buddy Wyatt said Monday that co-captain Toben Opurum so far had been a lot louder in this year’s camp than during previous seasons.

“Toben’s a good leader, but I think (senior transfer) Josh (Williams) has helped him as well,” Wyatt said. “Toben has been more vocal this camp. The team voting him a captain has made him step up and say, ‘Hey, my teammates are counting on me so I need to do what I need to do to help them be as good as we can be.’”

4-3 fun

Asked what the ideal scheme for KU’s defense would be, Wyatt said the early part of preseason camp had been spent on one style.

“We’ve been playing a four-down (system) so far,” Wyatt said of the defensive set that utilizes four down linemen. “In this league … we want to be able to use several different looks up front, but right now we’ve only been practicing our four-down stuff.”

How’s it coming?

“We look pretty good,” Wyatt said. “We’re starting to get an idea of how we need to play, techniques and things, to go with a four-man front.”

Stowers shining

While a lot of the offseason attention has been on the two defensive linemen who have not yet made it to campus — Wyatt had no update on the arrival dates for Ty McKinney or Jordan Tavai — KU’s defensive-line leader shifted his focus to one who had — juco defensive tackle Keon Stowers.

“He comes to play in practice every play,” Wyatt said. “I just love being around him. You can look in his eyes, and when I’m up there talking to the group, I can just feel him burning a hole in the back of my head. He just takes everything in, he’s soaking everything up.”

Comments

Kman_blue 2 years, 2 months ago

I'm really excited to see how all these new DL play come Sept. 1. It sounds like and looks like we've got some quality players with good size filling the 2 deep on DL for the first time in a while at KU. We've had quality DL before, but I don't think we've been this deep with solid Dlinemen who all look like they can play and have good size in a while. Not really any undersized guys to be found this year, unlike in previous years.

I'm also really excited to hear what a positive influence Josh Williams has been having on the DL unit as a whole. That kind of leadership from players has been sorely lacking for the past couple of years as well. Nice to see Opurum stepping it up also. It doesn't hurt that both those guys can go out there and back up their leadership with some great play.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 2 months ago

It will be nice to get Big John Williams back from injury this year as well. It's als nice that Reynolds and Goodman don't have to be forced into leadership roles when they are still relatively young, but will have another year to grow and learn.

Patrick Leiker 2 years, 2 months ago

Will be really nice to get Big John back. Hopefully he can stay healthy. When he went down last year, things went from thin to really thin and bad to really bad.

Bangkok_Jayhawk 2 years, 2 months ago

Another reason I am putting my money on 4-5 wins...

Let’s pretend for a minute that we could go back in time to last year and keep everything the same except for two things.

1. Substitute Crist for Webb. If we are honest, Webb is in the top half of QBs this school has seen which is not a good thing. The problem is that he was average and we are not a program that can win with an average QB. Crist LOOKS to be a well above average QB.

2. Substitute this year’s D-Line (strength and conditioning included) with last years defensive line (also strength and conditioning included). A defensive line containing 2 NFL prospects lining up at end (Opurum and Williams) along with upgrades at tackle (Tavaii + McKinny + John Williams back). Offenses across the Big 12 were able to run at will and when they threw, they had all day. This current defensive line is not going to be world beaters, but they seem well on their road to respectability.

I will admit that I am an optimist (I had the Royals winning 75 games) but I still think 4-5 games is very attainable. Even with the catastrophe that happened last year, this current defensive line and Crist may have been able to get us to the 3 or even 4 game mark. Would certainly have made a difference with Baylor.

troutsee 2 years, 2 months ago

I agree. This team has the coaches and the attitude and some core players to be pretty darn good.

oldalum 2 years, 2 months ago

And even better, they have someone to teach them how to do something that will actually work against the opposition.

texashawk10 2 years, 2 months ago

Last year's team should've won 6 games last year. Along with the 3 you mentioned, with any kind of offensive output, KU would've beaten Missouri as well to get to 6 wins.

Jim Stauffer 2 years, 2 months ago

Kinda reminds me of Gene Hackman's statement in the movie, "I thought I had died, but realized I was actually in Nebraska."

Robert Brock 2 years, 2 months ago

If the Jayhawks even LOOK like a football team it will be a huge improvement.

Mike Hart 2 years, 2 months ago

CrimsonAndBlueForLife: That's probably one of the most ignorant and pointless posts I've read in quite awhile. Congratulations.... Seriously, ripping the state of Nebraska and comparing the state to Hell. Oh, you're so creative and witty. Most KU fans are above that...

vd 2 years, 2 months ago

2 dline not in? 2 others have switched to the O line. Depth?????????

DocPossum 2 years, 2 months ago

So you're rippin on two schools you don't play any more, NU and Missouri. Be glad they are not in the league any more. Nebraska runs a credible program and their kids graduate, something that KU is still aspiring to do. If you think Nebraska is barren you have not been to the Flint Hills. TCU and West Virginia will keep you occupied. West Virginia will be looking to establish a rivalry (like they had with Pitt) with someone, it might as well be KU. So take some cheap shots at them and then enjoy the future exchanges.

Kman_blue 2 years, 2 months ago

This is kind of a strange post based on the previous posts. I take it you're not only a Nebraska fan, but you're also from that state originally or are you just a bitter mizzery fan who likes to visit KUsports.com? If the later then to quote a famous statesman, "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life." I'll take some liberty with the fat part, but the other 2 seem evident from your post.

Anyway, nobody mentioned the school to our east and nobody ripped on the corn's program, they ripped on the state of Nebraska. Reading is a wonderful thing when you can actually understand what you are reading.

Eric Mitchell 2 years, 2 months ago

Why would we go to the Flint Hills in Nebraska, when we can travel through them while traveling to Manhattan? 2 birds with 1 stone

BayPark 2 years, 2 months ago

That may or may not be true. We have no way of knowing until we see them in the trenches competing against the rest if the Big 12. It appears we've upgraded, but none of the d-line have proven themselves any more than average D-1 football players. (Although considering our #120 ranked defense a year ago, average would be a considerable upgrade.)

Terry N Tom Denner 2 years, 2 months ago

You can thank Turner Gill for his lack of common sense for the 120 th ranking on Defense. The man had no control over the group of misfits on and off the field & class room. The new Defensive Coach and other Coaching staff will see to it that the Defense & Offense will be ready to blow some minds off the first snap. Have more faith in the new recruits & Coaching Staff.

NebraskaJayhawk 2 years, 2 months ago

"group of misfits"

Nice choice of words....wow dude.

Eric Mitchell 2 years, 2 months ago

Crusty, you have, what they call, a severe case of blind faith.

Terry N Tom Denner 2 years, 2 months ago

Now KU can prove to the others that think KU will be nothing more than a home coming game and a easy win. They will ALL get a huge eye opener with the defense and offense lighting up the scoreboard on them for a change !! 7-6 or 8-5 this season. Can't wait to go & watch the Hawks beat TCU. My prediction is KU - 35 TCU - 21 !!

NebraskaJayhawk 2 years, 2 months ago

Looking forward to seeing what Williams can do. He really was not a relavent player when at NU. He was more of a reserve player and kind of underachieved. Of course he was playing behind some pretty good talent. Hopefully the fire is lit under him and he tears it up.

Mike Hart 2 years, 2 months ago

I bleed crimson and the blue with the bed of them, but when I read about EXPECTING to beat TCU, Texas Tech @Texas Tech, Texas, Mizzou. Come on people. Don't let your "homer"ism run rampant. OF COURSE, we will be better, but please stop expecting this team to win something ridiculous like 5 conference games in Weis' first full season. Blame Gill all you want for the last 2 seasons, but our defense was slow to the ball and overmatched by virtually everyone last year. Games will be closer and we'll win a few more , but stop talking about beating Texas Tech, Kansas State, Missouri and Texas all in the same first season with the new coaching staff.

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