The 2015 season looks like it could be an incredible campaign for tailbacks in the SEC.
LSU’s Leonard Fournette, UGA’s Nick Chubb and Alabama’s Derrick Henry are all part of the early-season Heisman Trophy discussion, and they rank among three of the best running backs in the country. The list of elite runners in the conference does not end there, though.
Kentucky’s Stanley “Boom” Williams has a chance to end up in that group of talented tailbacks, as well. Williams is fifth in the SEC in rushing with 322 yards in three games, trailing only the aforementioned all-world trio and Arkansas’ Alex Collins.
“Yeah, we really knew we had something special with ‘Boom’ all along,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said Wednesday during the weekly SEC teleconference. “He’s a guy that fits very well with the offense, and really would fit well just in any offense, quite frankly. He’s a very explosive guy, he’s got very good vision and just being a true sophomore, I think he’s really got a lot of good football ahead of him, as well.”
While the rest of the Kentucky offense has struggled at times this season, Williams has been a consistent spark. The only thing that has held him back to this point is his workload.
He has 40 carries in three games, which is well behind other No. 1 tailbacks in the conference (Williams is tied for ninth in attempts with Florida’s Kelvin Taylor). Williams’ 8.1 yards per carry is in line with Chubb (8.4) and Fournette (8.2) and better than Henry (6.9) and Collins (5.9).
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson defended Williams’ workload when asked about it Tuesday after practice.
“He can’t sit there and play every snap,” Dawson said. “The guy’s not a Nintendo guy. He gets tired. He’s got a human body. We’d hand it to him every time if we could, I promise you. The kid’s a great player, but he gets tired, too.”
Williams, who was a 4-star all-purpose back at George Walton Academy (Monroe, Ga.) and originally committed to UGA, showed flashes of his game-breaking ability as a freshman in 2014, leading the Wildcats’ committee of backs with 486 yards and 6.6 yards per attempt. Dawson said he’s a guy who can be counted on for “chunk plays,” and he’s established himself as Kentucky’s top offensive weapon.
The Wildcats will face another stout defense Saturday when No. 25-ranked Missouri comes to Commonwealth Stadium. It will be another chance for Williams to prove he can produce against a top-level SEC defense, and for the Wildcats to show they are getting better under Stoops.
Part of that process has been recruiting better players, something Stoops has poured plenty of resources into. Williams is an example that he’s getting better players to come to Kentucky. The goal is to find more of them, and new renovations at Commonwealth, including a special room to house recruits during games, could help them find another “Boom.”
“It was very big,” Stoops said of landing Williams. “We need those guys that help change the score and give us some explosive plays, and we feel like we got one with him.
“This past week versus Florida, we had an awful lot of recruits in there. The room has been a big hit. It’s great, because of location, they get to feel the energy in the stadium and gather with other recruits and gather with coaches right prior to the game and right after the game. So it’s been a very big success.”