After recently returning home from a two-year mission, big R.J. Willing had a successful spring camp…
Willing Moving On Up
When R.J. Willing returned home a couple of months prior to spring camp after serving a full-time LDS mission in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the big 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pounder was concerned about competing at a level high enough where he would be able to contribute during this up and coming season. Having competed at left tackle in place of what was then an injured Dallas Reynolds, Willing has since switched to right tackle, where he has been receiving many reps with both the first-team and second-team units. "I just stepped right in where I left off during spring ball," Willing said. "In the spring I was at left tackle and pretty much played there throughout my whole career, but now I've been switched to the right side." Coach Weber is looking for the best of the best within his talented group of offensive linemen to travel with the team prior to game day. Through his effort and spring performance, Willing has put himself into a position to be one of those linemen, and is why he was asked to switch to right tackle. "Coach Weber wants to travel with the least amount of linemen as possible," Willing said. "He wants around six to eight guys that he can have travel and be able to cover every position. What this tells me is, if I want to play I need to pretty much learn the right side. I just took his word for it and I'm giving it my all. "I'm just trying to get used to being on the right side stance and getting my stance down and my kick slide [right leg technique] down. It's a little difficult for me but I'm learning it and getting used to it every day. I think what Coach Weber has seen in me is someone who worked hard and gave him a reason to have confidence in me. When I came back home I had to prove myself to him. I guess he wasn't able to see any film on me in this offense, and so I had to prove myself to him and gain his confidence in me." With a healthy Dallas Reynolds back on the offensive line, the move of R.J. Willing now places him in direct competition with his 6-foot-8-inch, 325-pound friend David Oswald. "David [Oswald] and I are really good friends," said Willing. "His locker is right next to mine and we're really good pals. It's a good, healthy competition that will help both of us to become better." Oswald saw action is all 13 games, including three as a starter, during last year's 11-2 season with an offensive line that produced an average of 465.5 yards of total offense per game. Willing has not played but a single down since starting nine games during the 2004 season. However, the former Hawaiian First Team-All State selection has communicated with Oswald in an attempt to improve on his game. "Whenever we both come out of a series we both coach each other up, which is nice," said Willing. "David has a lot more experience in this offense than I do, so it's nice to have his support and his guidance." Trading time with his locker room neighbor on the first team offensive line, Willing feels that since returning home from his mission, he is just about to the level of pre-mission status. "I'm past that point of frustration now," Willing said. "I feel that I'm at around 98 percent back to where I used to be before my mission. I've got my legs back under me and it feels really good right now. I didn't think I would recover this quick, but I have." Like so many others on the team, Willing isn't going to stop with his personal progression once he gets back to 100 percent pre-mission form. The sophomore lineman wants to improve and add upon his physical abilities, technique and overall performance over the course of the next three years. "I want to be a lot better than I was before my mission," said Willing. "Being 98 percent to where I was before is not even close to where I want to be now. Having this opportunity to compete for a spot is really pushing me, because before I was comfortable with where I was at. You can't be that way now because our offensive line is so deep and talented and that's what is going to set us apart from everyone else. We have so much talent that the competition among us to improve will always be there. What this means to us is that no one is safe and we're always looking behind our backs, which will help push us even more to improve."
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