UO receiver Williams has arrived, coach says
EUGENE -Something changed in sophomore receiver Jaison Williams during the week of the Oklahoma game.
On that Monday, Williams sat out practice with an injury, while still nursing thoughts of dropped passes against Fresno State. The next day, 'he came back and he was a different person, mentally and physically,' coach Mike Bellotti says.
For Williams, it wasn't that he needed to mature physically. He arrived at Oregon big - he's a strong, thick 6-5, 245 pounds - but he had to show that he could be counted on consistently.
He had eagle-like clutches, but when his eyes didn't coordinate with his hands, he dropped balls. After his stellar performance against Oklahoma, when he caught nine passes for 177 yards, he talked about the drops being behind him.
'I had to take it upon myself to come back and have faith in myself,' says Williams, adding that he also needed to earn the faith of quarterback Dennis Dixon.
'No receiver likes drops. It plays with your psyche, amd I'm trying to get past it slowly but surely,' says Williams, a strong Christian who hails from Inglewood, Calif., and prepped at Culver City High. 'The offensive line's blocking and Dennis' throwing would be in vain,' if he dropped balls.
Rewind to 2004, when wide receiver Cameron Colvin drew all the attention for signing with Oregon over USC and Michigan. Williams skated through relatively unnoticed, although the Ducks knew what kind of talent they were getting - USC, Michigan and West Virginia also wanted Williams.
Williams holds the UO receiver record in the bench press (341 pounds), and he's fast, clocking the second-fastest 40-yard dash time among current UO receivers (4.68 seconds). He can overpower defensive backs for a contested ball and outrun them in a vertical pattern.
'He's an excellent receiver,' Dixon says. 'You throw it up there, and he goes and gets it.'
Williams leads the Ducks through three games this season with 18 catches for 325 yards, emerging as the early go-to player that Bellotti and his assistants have sought. Williams had 15 catches last season, including a 66-yard score against Oregon State.
Injuries have slowed the receiving corps, except for Williams, Jordan Kent and Brian Paysinger, who caught last week's winning touchdown pass from Dixon as the Ducks beat Oklahoma 34-33 in the widely controversial game at Autzen Stadium.
Returning starters James Finley and Colvin dealt with training-camp injuries, and both have bad ankles. Garren Strong, a mentor and starter ahead of Williams when healthy, injured his ankle against Fresno State. Derrick Jones suffered an ankle injury in camp. Kyle Weatherspoon continues to deal with academic issues.
Bellotti says only Finley, among the injured, could be doubtful for the Sept. 30 game at Arizona State. The talented Jones might be working his way into game plans soon.
But Williams, who was improved at blocking and routes, could end up being the go-to receiver all year.
'Coach Bellotti challenges us every day to go out and be that person,' he says.
Next: Oregon (3-0, 1-0 Pac-10) at Arizona State (3-0, 0-0), 12:30 p.m., Sept. 30, KATU (2)