The active middle linebacker, who had hoped to return by the first game of the season, has now pushed that anticipated start date back a bit, and understands that even that date isn't set in stone. It's certainly been a frustrating time for the West Virginia native, who has had to deal with almost daily questions about his status.
After the highlight of his football career -- being named defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl in January, Williams underwent surgeries on both shoulders during the off season. His recovery has been good, but it's important to keep in mind that the target isn't just getting back to normal use. It's getting back to where the shoulders can stand the constant battering a linebacker endures.
“Right now, it’s still in my mind that I am playing," he said in his latest update. "I have up until the first game and even after that you can play in the first four games of the season before you have to take the red shirt, so we will see where I am at.”
Williams says that he is back to 75% of his potential playing ability and does not expect to play in the Mountaineers' home opener against Villanova. He is aiming to be back for the second game against East Carolina, but is taking his recovery one day at a time.
That doesn't mean, though, that he hasn't been an active participant in preseason practice. Williams has been a part of fall camp although he said that he is taking more of a coaching role than being involved in plays.
“I guess you could call me Coach Williams a little bit. I have been doing as much as they will let me, but then I go out there with Coach Casteel and work with the backs when he’s busy yelling at some other guys I will yell at them for him,” Williams joked.
“Coach Casteel knew what he had here and he stuck around," Williams said of WVU's defensive coordinator. "It really means a lot to our guys. I respect him with the utmost respect. I think he’s a great guy and a great coach. I try to model myself around the way that he prepares us for the game.”
For his part, Casteel also hopes to have Williams available for duty. He understands, however, that there's nothing he or his star linebacker can do to hurry the process along.
“He gives us a very good football player and an intelligent guy that knows the system. He’s a leader and he’s made a lot of players for us," Casteel observed. "To get him back is obviously going to be a big shot in the arm for us defensively. If he’s not able to go we’re not going to risk tearing his shoulder back up. It’s a situation where only time will tell, and we don’t have to make that decision for another four or five weeks."
Mountaineer coaches, fans, and players are hoping to see number 47 on defense for West Virginia this season, and the waiting game has made them very antsy as they await the news that he has been cleared to play. No one wants it more than Williams, though.
“Obviously coming back your senior year you don’t want to miss any games. You want to be out there every opportunity to play with your guys,” Williams said.