Williams passion, energy felt by receivers
In the middle of July, Kenny Bell, drafted in the fifth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, returned to Lincoln to work with new receivers coach Keith Williams. Bell, who remained fiercely loyal to the previous coaching staff to the end, didn't have any real experience with Williams.
But it didn't take long for the rookie to see what NU's new coach brought to the table. Bell shared a round of golf with Brandon Reilly while back in Lincoln and instructed the younger wideout to soak up Williams' every instruction.
"He said, 'You're lucky. You've got a really good coach,'" Reilly recalled. "He's in the league and he knows what he's talking about, so it was good to hear him say that."
It hasn't taken long for Williams to make his mark on Nebraska's receiving corps. The group was a bit skeptical at first - previous coach Rich Fisher had been popular with the players, and Reilly admits he didn't know how he would connect with Williams.
But then NFL wideout James Jones, now with the New York Giants, showed up during spring ball to work with Williams, who had coached him at San Jose State. Jones returned in the summer with Ryan Grant, a member of the Washington Redskins who'd perfected his craft under Williams at Tulane.
NFL players with no connection to the program were flying to Lincoln in the middle of the offseason just to work with Williams? That got the receivers attention and earned their respect.
Of course, the receivers had already begun to witness their coach's intensity. Williams, who deems himself "Dr. Route" in his Twitter bio, is a stickler for technician and precision and won't hesitate to run out onto the field and demonstrate correct form if he sees a receiver do something wrong.
"He's emphasizing more of the passing aspect of it," Sam Burtch said. "He's a lot more technique-oriented, so we're more working on our breaks because that's the main way of getting open."
And his energy has already made him a bit of a local legend. Williams will sprint after receivers in celebration if they catch a long pass, as he did when Reilly hauled in a bomb over Joshua Kalu Thursday night. He'll also trash talk the defensive backs and get up in receivers' faces to congratulate them after a tough catch.
"He's a very intense guy," Reilly said. "If I catch a deep ball, I'm trying to beat him to the end zone because I know he's going to be chasing me down. He's always running around yelling and he makes it fun out there."
Nebraska's wideout group is brimming with potential, and it's Williams' job to bring it to fruition. Jordan Westerkamp is a proven commodity and De'Mornay Pierson-El is on the brink of stardom. But Williams must also rework Reilly and Burtch back into the offense after injury-wrecked 2014 campaigns, help Alonzo Moore find his confidence and bring freshmen Lavan Alston and Stanley Morgan up to speed.
Whether he's able to accomplish all those goals or not remains yet to be seen, but there's no doubt he'll put in the work to get it done.
"Once spring ball ended, he texted me the next day and said, 'You ready to get this work in?'" Reilly said. "He's always keeping in touch with us and has videos for us to watch. He's a technician at the position and he expects greatness."
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