Receiver, Vikings seek versatility
PSU and Jay Williams will need to do more than running, blocking
Jay Williams sometimes gets hassled by his teammates on the Portland State football team when he talks too fast.
'I'll get going, and then my accent will pop up,' says the junior receiver from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 'My accent is mostly gone, but I just have to remember to talk slower so people can understand me.'
Williams' solution to his speech pattern is akin to the Vikings' problems on offense this season. In order to be effective, they've simply had to slow down and be more conservative.
It's a run-oriented Vikings team that will play at Northern Arizona on Saturday in the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams.
Williams has been struggling to find his place in the offense in part because he feels like he is expected to fill Terry Charles' shoes. Charles caught 71 passes for 1,096 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2001. Eight of the touchdowns covered 17 or more yards.
Charles' performances and that of quarterback Juston Wood, who finished with 3,200 passing yards, attracted Williams to Portland State over Arizona, Baylor and West Virginia.
'Of the programs that I looked at,' Williams says, 'the Vikings looked the best because they win a lot here, and they know how to throw the ball.'
In the team's media guide, coach Tim Walsh called Williams the program's best junior college transfer in terms of what he does on and off the field.
But replacing Charles has been a significant challenge.
'Everyone thought I would be the next Terry Charles,' says the 6-3, 195-pound Williams. 'But I am so far from being Terry Charles, it's not funny.
'The good thing is no one is getting mad at me for being Jay Williams and not Terry Charles.'
In three games, Williams has six catches for 36 yards.
Williams' totals are consistent with the Vikings' passing game, which has taken a dive from last season, averaging just 137 yards per game. Last season, PSU averaged just under 300 yards per game.
That's led Walsh to alter the offense.
'We're more of a run-oriented team,' he says. 'We're definitely more conservative.'
Walsh points out that that doesn't mean the Vikings are less of a threat to score, as evidenced by the 17-play scoring drive against North Carolina A&T that included 16 runs by Ryan Fuqua. The receivers are a part of that kind of offense.
'Ryan Fuqua isn't running for 1,700 yards on his own,' Walsh says. 'Our receivers have to know how to block, or they don't play.'
Of course, blocking isn't making the Vikings a versatile threat on offense, and that's troubling to the team. Williams thinks the passing game is due for a good game.
His four catches against Oregon last week helped him personally.
'That did a lot for my confidence,' he says. 'We can still be a good passing team. It's just a matter of everyone on the offense finding their role, pulling together and making plays.'