Like every season there are some hits and misses. For BYU star running back Jamaal Williams, he believes the team did rather well under Robert Anae, in the first year of his second stint at BYU.
“I think we did… I think we did pretty well this year for our first time in this offense, “Williams said as he reflected on this past regular season. “I think we improved tremendously and I can’t wait for next year since it’s going to be like second nature for us.”
BYU’s schedule was a tough one this season, with a mix bag of results, but still the team managed to succeed in going to a bowl game to face the Huskies of Washington next week in the Fight Hunger Bowl. Williams feels there still is room to grow, but the offenses situation this year was different than it was last year.
“It’s just more improvement to go. We have a different mindset from last year. It’s a great mindset we have this year to get better and execute and go out there and do our best, so this is a perfect offense for us right now.”
With a year now spent under Coach Anae, Williams believes the offense will only continue to improve; the results will be more evident next season.
“If we keep working at it, and believe in the system and in our coaches like we did all season, I believe we can have a 10 win season and improve on that too,” said Williams.
However, the improvements and offensive advancements of next season will have to wait. The Cougars have to focus on getting themselves ready now to face Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl on December 27th. The layoff gave time to the players to recover a bit from the rigorous schedule, but now it’s time to get back to work.
“We pretty much just used the break to weight lift, condition, and to just stay in shape, but it was a good break,” Williams said. “I enjoyed it and I kind of felt it during practice [yesterday]. It was just a good time to go into football just a little bit and get our mindset ready for the bowl game now, so. The break is what we really needed to get our bodies healthy and now we’re ready to go.”
With former Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian taking up the mantle of head coach for the Trojans of USC, the Cougars will face an interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo. The Cougars will face a talented Washington team that has recorded their best season, record-wise, since 2001.
“It’s a good school,” said Williams. “I watched them when they played Washington State just in the hotel room. They’re a great team and give effort every time they go out there: special teams, defense, and offense on every play. It’s going to be a great test for us.”
Former Boise State Head Coach Chris Petersen will be Washington’s new head coach. When Williams was a senior at Summit High School, Coach Petersen and his staff recruited him as an outside linebacker. He a little surprise the man who put Boise State on the map is now leaving for Washington.
“Yeah, I was kind of surprised that he left Boise State to go to Washington,” said Williams. “It is college football; coaches got to do what they have to do for their families and what’s best for them. I hate to say it’s like a business. You have to do what’s best for your family.”
While Jamaal was on an official visit to Boise State in high school, he didn’t get a sense that Coach Petersen would leave the program anytime soon.
“No, I really didn’t notice that much that he was really going to leave,” said Williams. “It had never been one of my concerns, but I knew in the back of my mind that coaches have to leave sometimes.”
However, the coaching carousel is a part of the college landscape and one reason why Jamaal likes Coach Mendenhall is his frank promise to his players about his job.
That’s one thing I think I like about Coach Mendenhall is, if he makes a promise he stays with it,” said Williams. “He promised he would be here for awhile, but he promised he’s going to leave one day but no time soon. I’m just happy about that.”
BYU’s defense will face one of the top running backs in the nation in Bishop Sankey. The 5 foot-10 inch, 203-pound junior from Spokane, Washington carried the ball 306 times for 1775 yards this season, averaging 5.8 yards a carry this season. Jamaal Williams countered with 205 carries for 1202 yards this season, a 5.9 yard per carry average. Williams doesn’t get too caught up in the comparison issues. He just wants to go out and play his game.
“No, I just try to play my game and admire other running backs and how they do it,” Williams said. “He’s a great running back and goes out there and runs hard and does what he does best. I’m just going to go out there and do me, and not worry about what other running backs do. But, you still have to respect what they have done, and that’s what I have for all running backs that play this game. I just go out there and do my best to be one of the top running backs so I can get the same respect.”
Jamaal’s development as a pass protector has come a long ways this season. Williams admits there is still room to improve, but he feels that blocking is becoming second nature to him.
“Yeah, blocking is second nature now. I enjoy it now and I’m getting better every time. My cutting is getting better every time, so I enjoy blocking and have no problem blocking no more. So, it’s not like I perfected it but I got more comfortable with it and now it’s just one of my hobbies to do now.”
When asked to assign his season a letter grade, Williams graded his overall performance in the “B” range.
“I would probably give myself a B+ or B,” said Williams. “Somewhere in there.”
In the regular season finales against the University of Nevada, Williams produced an amazing 219 yards on just 15 carries, averaging 14.6 yard per carry. His regular season ending statement convinced him that he needed to get back to that hardnosed, aggressive rushing style that captured the hearts of BYU fans everywhere. Williams believes he needs to get back to that style, a style which should hopefully rear its head once again on December 27th.
“It helped me a lot,” Williams said in reference to what he learned from that game. “It helped me to get back to my old ways. It was kind of a little reality check for me that I need to go back to those ways of running, and just running hard, and not caring; putting my body out there for the sake of the team not worrying about getting hurt and none of that. Just going out there and playing relentless and fearless and that’s what I want to do.”
Williams doesn’t expect Washington to change up their defense in an effort throw the Cougar offense off. He and his teammates are planning on facing a defense that’s been very consistent throughout the season.
“I’m pretty sure we expect them to do what they’ve been doing in the season,” Williams said. “That’s what we’re planning for and if they change it up then we’ll just have to just go out there and adapt to it. We’re looking forward to it and we’ve just been studying what they’ve been doing the whole season. I’m pretty sure they’re not going to change it up though.”