ECU learning to deal with success, Williams running towards stardom

Published 9:50 pm Tuesday, September 9, 2008

By By STEVE FRANKLIN Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — East Carolina coach Skip Holtz is going to have to develop a new game plan.
For the first two weeks of the season, Holtz and his upstart Pirates embraced the underdog role in shocking No. 17 Virginia Tech and No. 8 West Virginia in consecutive contests.
Now, the target has shifted to the backs of the ECU program.
In a two-week span, East Carolina has gone from the hunter to the hunted after climbing to the 14th slot in the Associated Press Poll and a No. 20 ranking in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
The next challenge for East Carolina is staying in the top 25 with teams gunning to take them down.
All summer, the Pirates have been talking about building a top tier program and belonging on the national stage. The two wins have thrust the national spotlight upon the program, but the team is trying to remain focused.
One of the primary goals is a Conference USA championship, and they’ll try to take their first step towards accomplishing that goal this weekend when they travel to New Orleans to take on Tulane in the conference opener for both teams.
Williams’ maturation is making him a star
By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — Jonathan Williams is starting to mature.
Back in April, after a night on the town, the East Carolina sophomore running back was arrested by Greenville police on a DUI charge.
After a night in jail and countless court appearances, Williams decided it was time to turn his life around. Time to focus on football and his future. Time to grow up.
Since the incident, teammates have seen a more focused player, and a maturing man.
East Carolina coach Skip Holtz has also noticed the former J.H. Rose standout’s maturation process.
Williams newfound focus has certainly paid dividends early in 2008.
In the season opener against Virginia Tech, the Greenville native toted the ball 10 times for 48 yards and scored his second career touchdown on one-yard run late in the first half.
Then on Saturday, he posted a career-best day in helping lead the Pirates to their biggest win in school history over No. 8 West Virginia.
Williams carried the ball 17 times, ran for 69 yards and scored touchdowns on both the opening possession of the game, and the Pirates’ opening possession of the second half. He established new career highs in carries, yards and touchdowns against the Mountaineers.
Williams and ECU’s coaching staff give senior running back Brandon Simmons a lot of credit for Williams’ development this offseason.
Williams agrees.
Williams has always had a knack for running the ball after rushing for more than 5,000 yards while leading J.H. Rose to a 32-0 record and back-to-back NCHSAA Class 4A state championships in 2005 and 2006, but it’s the little things that have earned him more playing time.
Williams said he is determined to do just that.