March 16, 2009

Malcolm Williams should be UT's next big WR star

Malcolm Williams lit it up against Texas Tech, scoring on two long touchdowns to help the Longhorns erase a 19-point deficit and ultimately take the lead.

Everyone saw this 6-foot-3, 220-pound lightning bolt catching four passes for 182 yards, including TDs of 37 and 91 yards in the third and fourth quarters against Tech, and thought a star was born.

Then he disappeared. He had just five catches in the final four games of the season. None in the Fiesta Bowl.

Why?

WHERE DID WILLIAMS GO?

"It was more of a consistency thing with me last year," Williams said. "I had trouble catching the ball sometimes. That's something I worked on all winter and spring."

So instead of sulk, Williams went to work. He started spending extra time with the JUGS machine, which fires out passes. He has been working overtime in the weight room.

"Anything to get my hands stronger and get more confidence," Williams said.

TAKING A POSITIVE ATTITUDE

Receivers coach Bobby Kennedy has been happy with Williams' work ethic and positive attitude following a quiet finish to last season.

"He viewed not playing much in the Fiesta Bowl in a positive light," Kennedy said. "He knows at the time James Kirkendoll was the hot guy and played really well. If you're never satisfied with where you're at and striving to get better - I know it sounds cliché - but those are the type of kids we have here.

"There's no doubt Malcolm was disappointed, but he was also more concerned about us winning. He showed us last year he can make special plays - against Texas Tech. He can be special if he continues to improve."

SPRING STANDOUT

Mack Brown says Williams has been one of the standouts during the first seven practices of spring. The team will resume workouts on March 19.

"Malcolm has done really well," Brown said. "There's a lot of competition at the split end with Dan Buckner and Montre Webber, so Malcolm knows every practice rep matters. "

Williams said the competition is fierce. To get a leg up, he called Colt McCoy throughout the off-season to get in some extra work and develop the chemistry he'll need to gain the trust of UT's star quarterback.

DEVELOPING CHEMISTRY

"I didn't want to bother him too much," Williams said. "But I wanted him to know I wanted to get better. I didn't have the chemistry with Colt last year with (Quan Cosby) here, so I knew that's something I've got to improve this year.

"Me and Colt are starting to get that. I can tell when he wants to get me the ball. He can tell when I want the ball. Certain plays in certain situations, it's unspoken, but I can tell when the ball is coming my way."

Williams said the best advice McCoy has given him is to "always forget the last play."

"If I make a big catch, forget it," Williams said. "If I drop one, forget it and move on. Just keep a clear head and stay relaxed."

REPLACING QUAN

Williams said Cosby was a great leader and teacher and will be missed. But he also knows it's time to step up.

"It is up to me and my work ethic," Williams said. "I have any kind of year I want. It's up to me. That's driving me."

McCoy has seen a difference in Williams.

"Malcolm is so big, strong and fast, it's hard for anyone to bump him at the line," McCoy said. "He's playing with a lot of confidence so far this spring."

INTENSE COMPETITION

Williams got the best of sophomore cornerback Aaron Williams in the first two days of spring ball. Malcolm jokingly said the difference is their speed.

"Aaron's fast," Malcolm said. "I don't want to burst his bubble, but he can't catch me. But it's amazing what he's doing with him being so young. He's so talented. It's great work going against him."

Williams said he likes what he's seen out of his fellow receivers so far this spring.

"Brandon Collins is a true athlete," Williams said. "I look at some of the stuff he does, and I way, 'Wow.' He does stuff that amazes me with his catches or runs after the catch."

Williams also said James Kirkendoll is coming on strong.

"James is just solid," Williams said. "He's consistent, and that's a huge compliment."

DESTINED FOR BIG THINGS

When asked one more time where he was mentally after failing to become a bigger part of the offense in the final four games of the season, Williams took accountability.

"I needed to mature more and do whatever I can to help the team," Williams said. "I did a little bit here and there during last season. But I've taken it upon myself to get in the weight room, get out with Colt and develop better chemistry and just do whatever I can to help the team."

MY TAKE: Malcolm Williams reminds me of the best parts of Terrell Owens. Big, strong, fast - not a natural pass catcher - but a playmaker who doesn't take his hands for granted. He works at it. His attitude seems to be great for the team. Very likable kid. I'll be shocked if he doesn't emerge as a breakout star this season.



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