MOBILE, Ala. -- In a deep class of talented receivers looking to make their next big impression at the NFL level, Terrance Williams is hoping to stand out. His 6-foot-2 size will help, as will his speed, but can Baylor receivers be selected in the first round of back-to-back drafts?
It could happen at a school in the heart of Texas football that has had its share of dry spells without any first-round picks during stretches of the last three decades. Between 1982 (RB Walter Abercrombie) and 1990 (LB James Francis), the Bears went without a first-round pick. Between 1996 (DT Daryl Gardener) and 2009 (OT Jason Smith), Baylor suffered another first-round shutout stretch.
Since then, however, the program has been represented strong in the first round of the NFL draft. In 2011, both DT Phil Taylor and OG Danny Watkins double-dipped for the Bears. In 2012, it was QB Robert Griffin III and WR Kendall Wright. And, now, Williams is hoping to continue a growing tradition and he is the Baylor Bears’ only hope. He figures he will be drafted somewhere between No. 20 and 32 overall. Anything lower and he won’t be a first-round pick.
Will Wright’s advice in the previous years make it happen for Williams?
“During the summer, he just told me the team will be looking big on me to lead them and just be there for them,” Williams said of Wright. “During the summer, I came in three days a week with (QB Nick Florence) just getting our timing down just so he would know what moves I was going to make and it paid off.”
Indeed it did.
Williams was the nation’s leading receiver in yards per game, averaging 147 yards over the 12-game regular season. He also averaged an impressive 18.9 yards per catch and had 12 touchdowns.
He was an outside complement to Wright in 2011, but with Wright playing for the Tennessee Titans in 2012, Williams finished his senior season at Baylor with 97 catches for 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“As the season kept progressing and progressing, it did scratch the back of my mind that, hey, I am close to 2,000 yards and why not get it?” Williams said. “Things happen for a reason. I’m not going to be down on myself. I’m happy with the production that I had.”
|Terrance Williams put up eye-popping numbers in college. Is it enough to land him in the first round of the NFL Draft?
He should be.
In 2011, with Wright stealing the headlines and with the attention of RG3, Williams still managed a healthy 59 catches for 957 yards and 11 touchdowns. His immense senior season resulted in an ultra-productive final two seasons, as he finished his career with 202 receptions for 3,334 yards and 27 touchdowns.
But, despite pushing the 2,000-yard mark -- only Nevada’s Trevor Insley in 1999 has done that in NCAA history with 2,060 yards -- Williams isn’t even the top receiver in this year’s draft class. A strong junior class that features 10 receivers has pushed him to the second half of the first round, or further.
The junior receivers are part of the biggest influx of underclassmen the NFL has ever seen. Cal’s Keenan Allen, Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins the Tennessee duo of Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson are all junior receivers challenging for first-round status.
“Basically (you need to prove) what you’ve got that’s better than somebody else’s,” Williams said, then listing his strengths: “Getting downfield in a hurry and making the critical catches when you need them the most, just always being in the right spot. That’s something that I take pride in the most and I will continue to.”
PThat’s what makes standing apart this week in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl so important for Williams. He has good speed (4.45-4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and prides himself in being able to get behind defensive backs, but he is also adept at finding the openings in zone defenses.
“He’s a great receiver. Going against him is only going to make me better,” said San Diego State CB Leon McFadden, who faced Williams several times in Monday’s Senior Bowl practice. “He’s one of the top receivers and I feel honored to be out here and guarding him.
“He has good routes and you have to pay attention to technique when you’re guarding somebody that’s fast and has good routes.”
There are several assets Williams brings to the receiver position. In addition to his speed, he is 6-foot-2. But ultimately, Williams prides himself in something rarely considered at the receiver position: consistency.
Only twice during the season did he have less than 80 yards receiving, and both of those instances came at the end of the season.
“It’s something I just took pride in trying to help my team win,” he said. “I was just trying to be consistent the whole season because I felt like my junior year it was (uneven) and I had to make it more like a straight line.”
Williams and Wright are different players -- Wright is smaller and known more for his speed, while Williams is taller but also offers some of the deep speed so desired at the NFL level. Wright is the one that offers advice to Williams.
“That would be somebody you would have come talk to you when you were having a bad game or something like that or a bad drop. (Wright) would come to you and just tell you, ‘Don’t worry about that drop. Control the next play. Win the next play when they call your name.’”
Williams’ name won’t be called during games at Baylor anymore, but hearing it called on April 25 as part of the first round of the NFL draft would continue an emerging Baylor trend.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.