By Jerry Hill (@ViewFromHill)
Baylor Bear Insider
You probably won't catch Terrance Williams screaming into a sideline TV camera, "I'm the best receiver in the country."
As a matter of fact, the soft-spoken fifth-year senior from Dallas, Texas, tries to avoid TV cameras, microphones and reporter notepads like the plague.
But you could certainly make the argument that the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Williams should at least be in the conversation for the Biletnikoff Award that's given to the nation's best receiver. Through the first two games, he's ranked second in the Big 12 and third nationally with 134.5 yards receiving per game.
"People say I am, but people can say what they want to believe," said Williams, who hauled in six passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday's 48-23 win over Sam Houston State. "I just want to do my own thing, because I don't want to get caught up in me trying to play somebody else's game or trying to do stuff that I'm not normally trying to do. I'm just going to take it one game at a time and let my numbers tell the country who the best receiver is."
One of a handful of Guy Morriss-recruited players that Baylor stuck with when Art Briles was hired at the end of the 2007 season, Williams first shined as a scout teamer, earning the Offensive Bear Squad Award as a freshman.
Coming off that year, he was expected to be a key contributor as a redshirt freshman in 2009. But playing behind senior David Gettis, a senior who's now with the Carolina Panthers, Williams had just three catches for 61 yards. His biggest impact came as a kick returner, averaging 24.1 yards on kickoffs and 14.4 on punt returns.
Although he remained in the shadows cast by All-American Kendall Wright, Williams blossomed over the last two seasons with a combined 102 catches for 1,441 yards and 15 touchdowns. Last year, he earned second-team All-Big 12 honors when he hauled in 59 passes for 957 yards (16.2-yard average) and 11 TDs.
And now that Wright is gone, Williams has stepped into the role of the Bears' go-to receiver with 13 catches for 269 yards and two touchdowns in the first two games.
"I think what makes Terrance have a chance to be a really great player is his attitude," Briles said. "Everything he does, he wants to be the best at and he's willing to work to be the best at it. When you need somebody to lean on, he's somebody that you look for, because you know what you're going to get out of him. And it's not going to be, my ankle's sore, I'm not feeling good. It's going to be all-out effort to the best of his ability every time he does it."
Considered more of a possession-type receiver earlier in his career, Williams has developed into more of a deep threat with the departures of Gettis and Josh Gordon, now with the Cleveland Browns.
"I think I have (become a better deep threat), in the sense of just tracking the ball and knowing where the ball is," he said, "because I'm just used to doing 10-yard routes and stuff like that. But I kind of feel like as the years have progressed, I've worked on tracking the ball on the deeper routes."
That includes the most dramatic play in a memorable 2011 season, when Williams hauled in a 34-yard TD reception from Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III with eight seconds left in a 45-38 win over fifth-ranked Oklahoma.
"Most of your reads go out the window. You're just trying to find a seam and maybe find somebody open," Griffin III said. "And when I looked down the field, I saw TW one-on-one. All of this is happening in mili-seconds. I saw him one-on-one and was like, `I'll give him a shot.' So I threw it up there, and he made a great catch. . . . God works in mysterious ways."
After working primarily with RG3 for most of his Baylor career, Williams spent some extra time this summer getting his timing down with senior quarterback Nick Florence. And it's obviously paid off.
"I wouldn't leave until we had five completed routes every day," Williams said. "I just wanted him to know what move I make to throw the ball, so that I can be in the right spot at the right time."
That played out on Saturday, when Florence hit Williams in the back of the end zone for an 18-yard TD pass in the third quarter that gave the Bears the lead for good.
"I had a choice to either go straight or do the post," Williams said. "I saw the safety try to come down quick and then hurry up and go back. But by that time, I knew I could get a step on the safety and just shield off the corner. Then again, that happens on me being at the right spot at the right time for Nick to make the throw."
"He's come up huge," Florence said of Williams, who's had 13 catches for 269 yards and two touchdowns. "I trust all of them the same, but it just happened to be where we were on the field and it was his turn to get the call. And he's come up huge. He's run great routes and made great catches. I'm just trying to give them a chance to make a play, and they're making plays."
One aspect of Williams' game that might go unnoticed is his blocking. On Jordan Najvar's nine-yard touchdown reception against Sam Houston and Jarred Salubi's nine-yard TD run against SMU, Williams had clear-out blocks that took defenders all the way off the field.
"That's something I take pride in," he said. "This offense has a whole lot of screens, so you have to be a good blocker to produce good plays. So I take blocking seriously."
Briles said it's a "fine line you have to walk" as a down-field blocker to avoid getting flagged for holding.
"We have some pretty big, physical receivers. If they get their hands on people, they can move them a little in space," Briles said. "But the flip side is when you feel a tug, you've got to relent, you've got to let go. You have to be very proper with your blocking technique, which is hands inside and moving your feet. As long as you keep moving, most times you won't get a holding call."
To get on the field at W.T. White High School, Williams had to become a good blocker. In run-oriented one-receiver sets, "I had to block," he said.
That was actually his introduction to football. While Williams had played basketball since he was 7 years old, playing against the likes of Toronto Raptors' second-round draft pick Quincy Acy, he didn't play football until his freshman year at W.T. White.
"My freshman year, my brother told me to just go on and give it a shot," he said. "(Basketball) was just something I had fun doing. But I had to try out football one time, and it's worked out perfect since then."
Not that he's totally hung up the basketball shoes. A point guard in high school, while Wright was still at Baylor, "we used to go to the (McLane Student Life Center) when were done with football practice."
"That was something I always looked forward to, because playing basketball with Kendall was fun, too."
Because of his size and speed, Williams is considered the Bears' most likely first-round draft pick this year. WalterFootball.com has him projected to go to the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 25th overall pick, which would give Baylor six first-rounders in the last five years.
"I can't really worry about that right now," he said. "Sure, that's a goal. But I don't want to get too caught up in that and start doing stuff that I'm not used to doing. So I'm just worried about the game that's coming up."
In their first road game of the year, the Bears (2-0) will play Louisiana-Monroe (1-1) at 7 p.m. Friday at Malone Stadium in Monroe, La.
Did You Know?
As Baylor's primary kick returner his first two seasons, Williams ranks sixth all-time in program history with 1,180 career kickoff return yards and seventh with a 22.3-yard average. As a redshirt freshman in 2009, he averaged 24.1 yards on 31 returns.