Football: Williams brings offensive spark
The Utah offense has been disappointing so far this season. In the span of four games, the Utes have seen their starting quarterback go down for the season and their receiving corps underachieve. To add, running back John White has not been nearly as effective as he was last season and the deficiencies on the offensive line have shown no signs of improvement.
With all the issues surrounding the offensive unit, Utah has had one player exceed expectations — fullback Karl Williams. He started the season getting reps mostly on special teams, but in the Utes’ third game against BYU, he got involved offensively. Against the Cougars, Williams helped keep a Utah drive alive with a catch on third down. That catch was his first of the season and made the Utes realize they had an underutilized commodity.
“[Williams] is doing really well,” said Utah fullbacks coach Ilaisa Tuiaki. “We moved him from tailback to fullback. We bulked him up a little bit and he is more agile, so he fits perfectly into what we’re doing.”
In last week’s loss at Arizona State, Utah offensive coordinator Brian Johnson went to Williams consistently throughout the night. Williams caught five passes in the game, which accounted for half of Jon Hays’ completions.
“The fullback screen was open a lot against BYU, so I expected to get the ball against [Arizona State],” Williams said. “The linebackers for ASU were mostly filling in the gaps and not getting to the outside, so I expected to get the ball, but not as much as I did.”
Every time Hays looked for Williams, he was open. One of Williams’ five catches went for a touchdown, the first of his career and Utah’s only score of the night.
“To be honest, I didn’t even realize I was in the end zone,” Williams said. “I was just running the play.”
The effort from Williams against the Sun Devils was one of the only positives to come out of Saturday’s game for Utah. It was the kind of game Williams dreamed about having when he came to Utah. The fullback from Layton went to Southern Utah University on a full-ride scholarship out of high school, but he gave up that scholarship after one season to walk on at the U.
Williams played sporadically last season as a sophomore, but Saturday was the first time he played a significant role. Of course, he would have liked his opportunity to come sooner, but after waiting patiently, he seized the chance when it came.
“He is a military-style guy,” Tuiaki said. “Whatever you ask him to do, he will do it.”
Williams’ newfound success out of the backfield has been one of many stops on the physical and emotional roller coaster he has been riding since the beginning of the season. Last month, his wife gave birth to their first child. Williams said his new son has made him a bit sleep-deprived, but he is getting used to the concept of fatherhood. With the way the offense has been struggling, Williams will have to adjust to life as a new part of Utah’s offensive scheme just as he is adjusting to life as a new father.
“If you see me with bags under my eyes, you will know why,” Williams said.
Bags that the Utah offense is perfectly willing to have.