Charlie Strong calls his new wide receivers coach the old man of the bunch.
At 58 years of age, Charlie William’s not approaching Yoda status quite yet, but is quite comfortable being the graybeard of a Texas staff that has undergone more changes in appearance than the late King of Pop, the difference being Michael Jackson kept pumping out the hits between plastic surgeries.
The Indianapolis Colts let Williams go as part of an offseason purge where six coaches were shown the door. He said he could have sat out the 2016 season and still collected an Indy paycheck, but decided to take on a huge challenge at the school he watched from afar while coaching at TCU in the old Southwest Conference.
“I could have just sat back and relaxed,” said Williams, a Long Beach product, “but when I looked at the jobs that were open and I had this opportunity to come here, I couldn’t pass it up.”
For Texas to get back to the top of the charts, Strong knew his staff needed an offensive makeover — particularly at quarterback and receiver — so bringing in Williams was one of the smartest moves Strong has made this offseason.
In this week’s introductory media availability, I asked the former Colorado State defensive back what receiver taught him the most about the game. The answer was Reggie Wayne, whom Williams coached for four years with the Colts before spending last year coaching their running backs. Williams will make it a practice of showing film clips of Wayne and other former pupils like Keyshawn Johnson, whom he coached for six years with in Tampa Bay, as reminders to his players what it takes to become elite.
As for his new wideouts, Williams has some interesting possibilities with potential big-play producer John Burt, Armanti Foreman — who saves his best for the Oklahoma game, but hasn’t stood out against most other opponents — and youngsters like 6-5, 205-pound freshman Collin Johnson. Nothing he sees this fall will completely blow him away because he’s already been up close and personal with some of the best players the sport has ever produced. But the potential for the receivers to be the team’s most improved unit is there.
Williams is already gaining popularity at Bellmont. Tight end/wideout Deandre McNeal has already gushed to the head coach about the new coach’s credentials. “He coached T.Y. Hilton,” Foreman told his teammate.
Better yet, the boss believes Williams will give the offensive staff a great veteran touch without stepping on the toes of the much younger Sterlin Gilbert.
“Charlie’s a veteran,” Strong said. “He understands his ego is not going to get in the way. He will be great for the players to watch. … He has a chance to develop them as men.”
Williams has a reputation of being a tough-minded but well-respected teacher who expects attention to detail and accountability among his charges. You don’t stick around for 30 years if you can’t get along with people. His two cardinal rules — catch the football, and don’t put the ball on the ground — are simple enough. Putting in the work in the film room? We’ll see if these wideouts are ready for the cerebral part of the game he helped develop in players he has coached.
In other words, the bar will be raised for a crew that returns seven players that combined to catch 66 passes for 904 yards and six touchdowns for an offense that ranked 117th nationally and a corpse-last in the Big 12 in passing offense. By comparison, former Longhorn John Harris — one guy — caught 68 passes for 1,051 yards and seven touchdowns in 2014.
There are adjustments to be made: Going from the huddle to no-huddle. A different pace. Working with much younger players for the first time since completing a six-year run at North Carolina at 2011. Williams’ first two weeks in Austin have been all about getting up early from his hotel bed, attending several staff meetings in the morning, followed by exercise, then film study and a trip to the gym.
As the senior coach on staff, Williams isn’t about to get caught slipping.
“I can’t let these guys see me get tired,” he said. “I have to stay on that treadmill and that StairMaster in the morning so I’m ready to go with these guys.”