Kentucky freshman T.V. Williams a big-play guy in a small package

jsmith3@herald-leader.comApril 9, 2014 

T.V. Williams

  • SPRING FOOTBALL

    When: Through April 26

    Where: Nutter Training Center (practices closed to public)

    Spring game: 3:30 p.m. April 26 at Commonwealth Stadium

T.V. Williams heard the whispers when he committed to Kentucky.

Actually, it wasn't even whispers, most people just said it in a normal voice, straight to the wide receiver's face.

"They say I'm too small to play in the SEC," he said. "It's all I've heard."

Williams, one of a handful of early enrollees that came to campus to go through spring practice with UK, reminds himself on a daily basis that people are saying that behind his back, too.

"It just motivates me to get in the weight room, eat right, get big," Williams said. "I just want to prove everyone wrong."

Even his Kentucky teammates have given him a little playful ribbing about his slight frame, generously listed on the UK spring roster at 5-foot-10, 148 pounds.

But it took only a few minutes of drills for them to see why Kentucky signed the freshman out of McKinney, Texas.

"He's an explosive player," said sophomore receiver Ryan Timmons, who plays the same slot receiver position as Williams, who has been clocked at a 4.31 in the 40-yard dash, a time that would have made him the second-fastest player at this year's NFL Combine.

"Don't let the size fool you, he's a really good player," Timmons said of Williams, who also ran track in high school. "I'm looking forward to him making a few plays for us this season."

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown, who said the freshman's smallish frame is a "legitimate concern," but it's offset by Williams' ability to make plays, which included 75 catches for 1,243 yards and 15 touchdowns in his final two high school seasons.

"I don't think you can have a whole team of guys his size, but you can have small guys," Brown said.

While at Texas Tech, Brown signed a similar-sized player in 5-foot-6, 160-pound Jakeem Grant, who has 98 career catches for 1,083 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first two seasons on the field for the Red Raiders.

"We know how to use him," Brown said. "We're not going to ask him to be a lead blocker. We're not going to ask him to do things that he's not capable of doing, but he can stretch the field and he can make some plays when he gets the ball in his hands, for sure."

Williams, who was the biggest kid in his class in middle school, even playing center for his basketball team, saw his classmates go through a second growth spurt. "They kept growing and I didn't," he laughed.

So Williams, who won't even turn 18 years old until June 16, tried to find his advantage.

Size doesn't matter when you have speed.

Wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord didn't have enough adjectives to describe the acceleration the Cats are seeing from the young receiver.

"Very, very, very, very quick and fast," Mainord said. "His change of direction is really good. He's hard to tackle in space. That's our goal with guys like that, we want to get them the ball in space as much as we can so they can make people miss and turn a normal play into a big play."

But often that play in space is in the middle of the field, where smallish players take violent hits from much bigger linebackers. Williams laughed and admitted that his mother worries about stuff like that.

Not Williams.

"When I was in high school, I had a coach tell me ... you can only get hit so hard and then after that, it is what it is," he said. "It can only hurt so bad. I just don't think about it."

Timmons, not a huge player himself, said the goal is to outrun those bulky guys in the middle. It's what he envisions himself and Williams doing this fall.

"We try to play fast, give the linebackers nightmares when they try to guard us downfield," Timmons said. "He's another explosive guy for the wide receivers."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com.

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