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The 2013 version of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga running back Keon Williams set the tone for this season in week two against Georgia State.
His second carry of the game went for 11 yards and included the 6-foot, 215-pounder lowering his shoulders and running over Panthers linebacker Jarrell Robinson, listed at 6-2, 215.
"You wouldn't see him put his head down and put his pads down and run people over last year," Mocs quarterback Jacob Huesman said. "That's something you see him do a lot, almost every run, this year. He's lowering the boom on people."
In Williams' words: "I noticed in certain situations I could be the hammer more than the nail."
The former all-state back at Red Bank High School rushed for a career-high 147 yards against Georgia State. It was the start of the best stretch of the redshirt junior's career.
Five times in the past six games, Williams has run for more than 100 yards, something he did once in his first two seasons. Heading into Saturday's game against The Citadel, Williams is second in the Southern Conference in rushing yards (687) and rushing touchdowns (9).
"There's still more to come and I've still got a lot of improving to do, but right now it feels good," he said.
Williams' play is a big reason why UTC (5-2, 3-1) has won three in a row and is in the thick of the SoCon title chase. The Citadel (2-5, 2-3) probably didn't have to game-plan around him too much before last season's game -- Williams rushed for only 155 yards on 51 carries in 2012 -- but coach Kevin Higgins said Williams has the Bulldogs' attention as they prepare for Saturday.
"They now have a running back that has been consistent from day one in Keon Williams," Higgins said.
As a true freshman in 2010, Williams started three games and rushed for 500 yards. He was suspended for the 2011 season after an arrest, returning last season to an offense that mostly revolved around Huesman and Terrell Robinson running, throwing and catching.
Williams said he didn't enjoy watching from the sideline last season. He also admitted that he could have worked harder, especially in the film room, to be an invaluable part of the offense. That changed in the offseason.
"He had the best summer of just about anyone, and it was all summer long," UTC strength coach Scott Brincks said.
Williams not only worked on his body but also committed himself to studying as much video as possible and learning how defenders react in different situations.
"He made a commitment in the summer to be great, and he made a commitment in fall camp to be great -- and it's paying off for him," head coach Russ Huesman said.
Robinson has an iPad that he uses to study video in his spare time. His roommate has it much of the time now, though.
"I do kind of keep it hostage," Williams said with a big smile.
The Mocs might technically run a version of the spread offense, but they often look like an old-school power running team. With Williams and quarterback Huesman (553 yards, six touchdowns) leading the way, UTC is fourth in the SoCon in rushing with 243.1 yards per game -- behind only the league's three triple-option teams.
"We can get into the spread and run you around the edges, but we'll run right at you, too," Williams said. "That is right up my alley. I like running between the tackles and guards."
And they like blocking for him. With 687 rushing yards through seven games, Williams has a shot at passing Eldra Buckley's single-season rushing record of 1,233.
"Oh man, that's about the best thing you can get as an offensive lineman," senior right guard Kevin Revis said. "We told him we're going to try to get it for him. We want to win first, but it's always nice to get something like that."
As good as some of his runs have been, Williams said his best play so far was the screen pass he turned into a 57-yard touchdown at Georgia Southern. The play started on the left sideline and ended, after many jukes and cuts, in the right corner of the end zone.
"That's the longest one," he said, "and I got to show some things that a lot of people probably didn't think I could do."
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...
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