Williams' Maturation Key to UK Ground Game

Kentucky had a lead and didn’t want to give it up, so they turned to the ground game.

But instead of the dynamic Boom Williams, it was Benny Snell Jr. who was carrying the load as UK didn’t throw a single fourth-quarter pass in a win over South Carolina.

As recently as a year ago, that might have been an issue for Williams. Now, it’s anything but.

“It’s great to see him on the sidelines smacking Benny on the head and giving him a high-five and cheering with that complement instead of just being about Boom,” head coach Mark Stoops said. “Boom is going to get his.”

Stoops is right about that.

Even as Snell – a true freshman – has emerged as the boom to Boom’s lightning, Williams has thrived. Over the last two games, Williams has rushed for 304 yards and had two of his seven career 100-yard games to bring his season total to 464 yards, good for second in the Southeastern Conference. Not coincidentally, UK has won two in a row.

“It’s all about the team and I wanted to be a team player and do whatever it takes to win,” Williams said. “These last two weeks have been huge, not just for myself but the team and Benny as well, as he’s come in and done a great job.”

In fact, Snell credits Williams in part for his success.

“Having him in front of me and just having a guy in the meeting rooms, he’s just a guy that’s always giving me knowledge,” Snell said. “Anytime I mess up, (Eddie) Gran gets on me, but Boom is able to talk to me as a player how to correct myself and it helps out a lot.”

Williams’ talent has never been in question. Where he’s struggled has been with consistency and how he responds when things don’t go his way, but not so much anymore.

“He’s really growing up and maturing,” Stoops said. “It’s great to see Boom…because this game is so mental, and he’s maturing.”

That maturation is happening both on the field in his leadership and on the field in his running.

Williams is a rare player, able at times to use his speed to run around defenses. The swing pass on which he reversed the field for an overtime touchdown against Florida during his freshman season is proof of that. But now Williams is learning to pick his spots. That’ll be essential when UK faces one of the most disciplined and athletic defenses in America against No. 1 Alabama.

“We can’t go side to side on any of these SEC teams,” said Gran, UK’s head coach of the offense and Williams’ position coach. “I will say this: He can sometimes, but you’ve got to pick and choose when you do that. I think he’s still gotta learn that when it’s not there, stick your foot in the ground and get us three yards. And I think he has progressed that way. We’re not there yet but we’re getting closer.”

Gran challenged Williams as soon as he arrived this offseason and continues to do so. Williams wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s not hard at all, not when you’ve got Coach Gran, a great coach leading the way and coaching you and telling you all the things you need to do to be successful,” Williams said. “He’s had a lot of guys he’s been able to take to the next level, so you’ve just got to be able to take coaching.”

Some might be crediting Gran for the obvious change in Williams, but not Gran himself. He says it’s all about Boom.

“I’m really proud of him,” Gran said. “I think he matured like crazy just looking at the game and how excited he was just to win the game and be a part of a victory, congratulating everybody on the sideline, his demeanor and everything has been fantastic.”