Receiving duo turns into big headache for opposing defenses
EUGENE Ñ For a microcosm of Oregon's season, just look at the wide receiver position:
• A starter, Keith Allen, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason.
• Another starter, Samie Parker, played through an ankle injury and a family tragedy in the span of four weeks.
• A regular player, Kellen Taylor, started the year suspended for academic reasons, broke a wrist during a game and played in the next, and the next week was kicked off the team by coach Mike Bellotti for conduct unbecoming to the program.
• The junior college player recruited to help out, Marcus Maxwell, came along slowly and then dislocated a shoulder.
• Two true freshmen, Kyle Weatherspoon and Jordan Carey, have been worked into the mix. Weatherspoon sat out his last high school season because of an eligibility issue. Carey had an ankle injury in the spring, a hamstring pull in the preseason and a knee injury early in the season.
A lot of adversity, tumult and youth, huh?
And through it all has stood a lanky, 6-2 sophomore named Williams. No, he isn't the most famous Williams in college football Ñ Reggie at Washington, Mike at USC and Roy at Texas top the chart Ñ but Demetrius Williams is making a reputation for himself.
Heading into Saturday's game at UCLA, the Duck sophomore has 43 catches for 845 yards and seven touchdowns, including grabs of 85 and 86 yards. His average of 19.7 yards per catch leads the Pacific-10 Conference.
Standout plays add up
Before the season, quarterback Kellen Clemens, Parker and others told fans to watch out for Williams. Clemens licks his chops over the prospect of having two more years with the kid they call D-Will.
Williams, who prepped at powerhouse De La Salle High in Concord, Calif., approaches his newfound fame with some chagrin. All he wants (all he talks about) is to help the team win. He doesn't pat himself on the back, even though he makes his share of highlight plays.
'I really don't study myself too often, except things I do bad,' he says. 'Good plays I don't look at too often.'
So he cannot pick out which play excited him more, the 86-yard catch-and-run hookup with Clemens against Mississippi State, where he got behind broken coverage and scored, or the pretty catch, spin and run against Washington that resulted in an 85-yard TD.
Some plays he would like to have over Ñthe reception against Washington State he eventually fumbled, the drop at the 1-yard line against Utah, and another catch and fumble against Washington. But, hey, who's counting when the receiver makes so many standout plays?
On fourth-and-two against California last week, Williams caught Clemens' short pass and turned it into a 19-yard play that set up the winning touchdown. Clutch.
On the other side of the field, Parker has watched and admired. Parker has 52 catches for 784 yards and four TDs, impressive numbers considering his personal adversity and opposing defenses that emphasize stopping him.
'I figured the eyes would be focused on me, and things would open up for him,' Parker says.
Injury adversities overcome
Parker entered the year with 12 TD receptions, at 36.7 yards per score. He has added TDs of 55, 43, 39 and 13 yards, but he went seven games without getting into the end zone. Williams had three TDs against Arizona and a career-high nine catches for 175 yards against WSU. He has four 100-yard games.
Williams has started all 10 games and played through a knee injury that hindered his jumping. 'It wasn't serious. Just got a little treatment, and it got better,' he says.
Parker opened with two great games, then injured his ankle against Arizona. He played hurt against Michigan and WSU and had a key drop in the end zone against the Cougars. 'I'm a speed guy, and I didn't realize how much I depended on it until I hurt (the ankle) and wasn't able to move,' he says.
A day after playing the Cougars, Parker got a phone call with some bad news. His stepfather, Tracy Sessions, who had attended the WSU game, had been shot and killed in suburban Los Angeles.
Parker spent time with his mother the week before the Utah game and attended funeral ceremonies the week before playing Arizona State. Each time, he played in the game, showing his dedication to the Ducks.
'It set me back emotionally a lot,' he says. He and Sessions 'were really close.'
Now that Parker and Williams are healthy, the Ducks have the best receiving duo in the Pac-10 outside of maybe Mike Williams and Keary Colbert at USC. The Trojan receivers combine for about 12 catches and 173 yards per game. Parker-Williams average about 10 for 163.
The two Ducks complement each other. The wiry Williams can leap and make tough catches Ñ 'it just seems like he can reach out and grab the ball,' Bellotti says Ñ and Parker has the speed to burn defenders downfield.