After red-shirting in 2010 due to NCAA eligibility rules which dictate that an athlete must sit out a year after a transfer, Karl Williams managed to make some noise during spring camp with a solid performance.
Designated a fullback out of the shoot, Williams got a bit lost in the shuffle as fall camp opened, with heavy focus on the three-way battle for the starting position between Thretton Palamo, Harvey Langi and John White IV. Shortly after camp began, Tauni Vakapuna was added to the mix to further complicate the battle for the starting job.
As the dust began to settle, the much-hyped Palamo faded from the picture with true freshman Harvey Langi doing the same shortly after. Meanwhile, Tauni Vakapuna emerged, along with John White, who, by all indications, has won the starting job.
The attention surrounding that battle, along with the fixation of using prototypical tight-end body types such as Dallin Rogers and Jake Murphy at fullback have left some talent somewhat ignored and by the wayside in Shawn Asiata, true freshman Jarrell Oliver and Williams.
With White sidelined with an undisclosed hip injury and struggles by Langi, which include an ill-timed fumble during the second scrimmage of camp, an opportunity for increased reps has opened up, and Williams has been the primary beneficiary.
While it hasn't been easy, Williams, along with Oliver and Asiata have tried to make the most of their limited reps, while trying to maintain a positive attitude.
"I've just tried to work hard and trying to do whatever I can to help the team out. I've definitely tried to make the most of the reps I've been given, and that's all you can do," said Williams. "I'm finally getting a shot at RB [running back]. It feels good to get a shot at it."
As a walk on, Williams feels a need to work just a little bit harder and prove just a little bit more. A difficult, uphill task on a talented and deep team, Williams has turned to teammates for support.
"I would say Shawn Asiata, he's taught me a lot. He's taught me to hit the hole hard what I needed to do on this team," Williams said. "I'm kind of different than the scholarship players because I'm a walk on and I haven't earned my spot yet, so it's tough. Mentally, the defense and linebacker crew keeps me going. I feel like I kind of have a mentality in common with them, so they've helped me out a lot."
Williams made some solid plays during the scrimmage, and did it again on Wednesday to open up some eyes. With White out, Williams still has some time to show the coaching staff what he can do prior to the close of camp. Wednesday morning, he revealed his plan to do just that.
"You have to stay healthy, that's a big part of it. I wasn't expecting camp to be as tough as it has been, but I've hung with that," Williams revealed. "Also ball security, that's the biggest thing on the team right now, holding on to the ball. Then taking care of your assignments. For that, you have to know the playbook, then execute and know where you have to be on every single play, especially pass protection."
With pass protection emerging as the team's primary concern, it's no coincidence that Williams mentions it as a key to his success. Of all the backs on the team, Williams is proving to be one of the most solid in that regard. While White has good speed and vision, his size could be a detriment. Vakapuna has other strengths, but his pass catching as well as pass protection could still be better.
Should an all-around candidate emerge, that player may just have an opportunity for significant playing time. With good size and speed combined with a hard-nosed attitude, Williams seems a lock to contribute on special teams, which could earn him a spot on the travel squad. Once on the road, it's anyone's guess what opportunities might arise. Williams vows to be ready to seize the moment should it come.
"I've stayed focused. I've taken every mental rep and watched and learned from every play, like Coach Whittingham told us to do, and I'm just keep going and keep working," Williams said. "You never know when your chance might come, and when it does, you have to execute on it, or may not get another. Because of that, I prepare myself every day like I'm a starter and every day contributor so that when it does come, I'll be ready."
Somewhat of a dark-horse candidate, Williams is definitely one to watch and keep an eye on. Utah fans shouldn't be surprised to see Williams' number 38 on the field and in the trenches come game time.