Williams 'catching on' in Pirates' offense|RB is third on the team in receptions

Published 6:02 am Wednesday, November 17, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Brian@wdnweb.com, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — Everybody knew Jonathan Williams had the type of ability that grabs people’s attention, but not many knew he had the type of hands that would grab everything thrown his way.
Heading into his senior year the Pirates running back had nine career receptions for 30 yards, but as Williams enters East Carolina’s matchup with Rice this Saturday his 45 catches and 431 receiving yards both stand as the third highest totals on the team.
Williams has also gashed defenses for 5.4 yards per carry, has had two 100-yard games this season and is seventh in Conference USA in rushing with 659 yards.
All of Williams’ talents were on full display during the Pirates’ latest win, a 54-42 victory over Conference USA foe UAB, as he rushed 14 times for 82 yards and a score while catching five passes for a career-high 115 yards.
One of Williams’ five grabs happened to be his first touchdown reception of his career, and also proved to be the game-winner.
“So far that was the best game of my career,” Williams said. “I just hope that with each game I keep getting better. … I’m an all-around back, I can catch the ball and run the ball. I’m athletic so I fit well into this offense by being able to come out of the backfield and catch the ball.”
This season Williams has done just that, and has done it more than any other Pirate running back in the school’s history. When Williams caught his 39th pass of the year he broke a 15-year old record which was set by Jerris McPhail who nabbed 38 passes in 1995.
 The 6-1, 200-pound back can do more than just catch check down passes. During the win over the Blazers Williams streaked down the right sideline and caught a bomb from quarterback Dominique Davis for a career-long 77-yard gain.
“Like I said, I can catch the ball. Throw it long, throw it short, I can catch it,” Williams said.
While Williams has shown he has the hands of a receiver, he has also proven to have a receiver’s mentality. That was evident by his 11-yard, game-winning TD reception versus UAB.
“It was an option route. I ran an option on the linebacker and he kind of came down on my so I ran inside of him. The quarterback got it in to me and we got it in the end zone,” Williams said. “I read it as I’m coming towards him and I will give him a move. If he goes one way I go the other.”
Davis said that a good receiving back helps out tremendously when teams focus too much on play-making wideouts such as Dwayne Harris and Lance Lewis.
“He’s great. Team’s don’t key on him as much so I get him the ball when everybody drops back and he makes great plays for us just like he did against UAB,” Davis said.
The fact that Williams has caught on as a receiver may be a surprise to fans, but first-year offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley was not caught off guard at all by his ability to catch the ball.
“Oh, absolutely (I could tell he was going to be a receiving threat), no doubt,” Riley said. “From a speed aspect, he trimmed down about 20 pounds this summer and his routes were a lot faster. He is always been one of those guys that has really good ball skills and most running backs don’t have that. He’s got probably the best ball skills of any running back I have ever been around. He has ball skills like a receiver … You don’t get that very often so when you do you have to take advantage of it.”
Riley said Williams has put in a lot of work since the preseason and that the running back has a had a profound impact on the offense.
“He was really good in fall camp, he was really practicing well,” Riley said. “You could see he was taking over and doing a lot of things; he was very dominant on the field. He started off very strong, then had a little bit of a slow period when he got banged up in the middle, but the last few weeks he has come on strong and got a lot yards. … When he is playing well, we play well offensively.”