Williams made 77 catches in 2012, the third-most in school history, he says the lack of big plays was hard to ignore.
Kasen Williams returned to track and field this year for one simple reason.
“I just missed it,” said Williams, who at Skyline High won the triple jump, long jump and high jump as a senior in the spring of 2011 to cap one of the most decorated track and field careers in Washington history.
Williams, though, hopes the work he has done on the track for Washington’s indoor team the last few months will also pay off when the Huskies begin spring football practice Tuesday.
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“I feel more explosive right now,” he said late last week. “I feel faster, too. I think track definitely had a lot to do with it.”
That Williams said “explosive” isn’t an accident.
As the Huskies officially begin preparing for the 2013 football season, one of their stated goals is to become more of a big-play offense — convert more of the long gains that UW coach Steve Sarkisian often refers to as “explosive” plays, particularly in the passing game.
UW’s longest reception of 2012 was 47 yards by Jaydon Mickens, the school’s shortest longest pass in a season since 1979 (when, in something of a twist, the longest gain was 46 yards by Aaron Williams, Kasen Williams’ father).
Kasen Williams’ longest reception was 39 yards, that coming in the Las Vegas Bowl loss to Boise State. And while Williams made 77 catches in 2012, the third-most in school history, he says the lack of big plays was hard to ignore.
“I think personally I could have done a lot more as far as being explosive and having bigger plays,” he said.
The reasons why UW struggled to get big plays in the passing game were many.
The Huskies had a young and rebuilt offensive line that was often overwhelmed by opposing pass rushes and there was inconsistency at receiver aside from Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, allowing defenses to key on those two. And quarterback Keith Price, left to guide a reconstructed offense, struggled to play at the same level as he had in 2011.
So the quest to become more explosive in 2013 will also be team-wide, starting with an offensive line the Huskies hope will be improved with experience, a deeper and more versatile receiving corps and a return-to-form by Price.
Williams, though, will also be a key.
“One area that we are going to really try to increase Kasen’s production is in total yardage, whether that comes after contact or on the catch,” Sarkisian said last week.
One way the Huskies will try to do that is by continuing to move Williams around, lining him up inside more often to try to get advantageous one-on-one matchups. Sarkisian noted Williams’ longest gain of 2012 came when he was lined up inside.
“I think we will see more of that this spring and into the fall, playing him in the slot even more,” Sarkisian said. “I think that will help Austin, as well. When they are both inside, it’s hard to double both of those big guys in the slot when they are in there together.”
The 6-2, 216-pound Williams signed at UW in 2011 as one of the school’s more decorated recruits after being named the Parade Magazine All-American Player of the Year. He said he knows he’s gotten a little bit of a reputation as a possession receiver. But he says he also knows that the big plays are there, waiting to happen.
“It’s just being able to connect,” he said. “Me and Keith being able to connect down the field. That’s all.”
The track workouts this winter, he said, helped him with some flexibility and also got him back to jumping, which he thinks may also aid him in getting separation from defenders this fall.
Williams did not participate in track as a freshman at UW, heeding the advice of Sarkisian that it might be best if he concentrated on one sport his first year in college while also learning to juggle academic demands.
“But he has really matured, he has really done a nice job of taking care of business (on and off the field) so we felt like the time was right for him (to participate in track),” Sarkisian said.
Williams competed in the triple jump and long jump throughout the indoor season and said he intends to continue with track in the outdoor season, though football will take priority until spring workouts end April 20. He had a best in the long jump of 24 feet, 4 inches, just off the 24-5 ½ he turned in to win state in the spring of 2011.
In between track and football offseason conditioning, he has worked out often with Price. And if anyone wonders the state of Price’s psyche following the ragged 2012 season, Williams says not to bother.
“He has a chip on his shoulder that he needs to get off,” Williams said. “And for him it’s not about proving it to other people, but proving it to himself.”
Williams, desiring to prove he can be a big-play receiver, says he’s feeling similarly motivated.
“Me and Keith are both in a situation where we are due for one,” Williams said. “Due for a (big) season.”