April 11, 2012

CoShik Williams uses spring practice to solidify position

CoShik Williams only knew one way to do things when he arrived at Kentucky as an invisible walk-on in 2008. The running back would show up to practice every day and work.

Every day. Spring camp, midseason, intrasquad scrimmage, biggest game of the year. It didn't make any difference to him. Even when he was buried on the depth chart, he still showed up and worked every day.

That hasn't changed now that he's getting ready to start his fifth year with the program. But it has changed how people see him. Once a total unknown, Williams entered spring practice as the No. 1 running back for the Wildcats.

"You know what you're going to get everyday," running backs coach Steve Pardue said. "He'll give you a solid day's work. This guy has kind of paid his dues and waited for his time. He ended last season on a high note and has brought that momentum into spring."

That momentum stalled when Williams went down with an injury in his right shoulder in the first scrimmage of spring, on April 7. He's getting treatment for it daily, wears extra padding and has spent a significant amount of time sitting out from contact since the scrimmage.

"I try to give it my all," Williams said. "Even if I'm injured. An ankle injury? Tape that thing up and go on out there and see what you can do. That's the kind of guy I am."

Williams said it's the toughest injury he's ever had to deal with. Running on a bum ankle is one thing, but a banged-up shoulder is another. He had a strong showing in the team's second scrimmage last Saturday, but was in red again when the team came back to practice on Wednesday.

That wasn't his choice, though.

"CoShik might be the toughest guy on our football team," head coach Joker Phillips said. "Watching him getting hit, banged around, holding his shoulder, then the next play he goes and gets hit again. He's holding his shoulder in a way that he's injured. I put a red shirt on him. He doesn't want to wear a red shirt."

Williams knows better than anyone how important a spring practice can be. After redshirting in 2008, he had a strong showing in 2009 that put him on the map. He capped it with an impressive Blue/White game, and earned a bit of playing time that fall.

He took another step the next season. Every time there was a chance for a running back to move up the depth chart, the coaches took note of Williams, who never took a day off in practice.

"Are you going to work so you'll be ready for that opportunity?" Pardue said. "Or are you going to pout? He decided to work."

Things came to a head in 2011 when Williams entered fall camp fourth on the running back depth chart. But by the time starters Raymond Sanders and Josh Clemons were lost to injury, Williams was moving up the depth chart again.

He ended up leading the team with 118 carries for 486 yards and three touchdowns. After playing in just three of the first six games of the season, he started the final five.

"I try to tell all of them, you better be ready," Pardue said. "When your time comes, seize the opportunity. It might not be when you want it to be, but you better be ready for when that day comes."

Holding an injured Williams back in spring practice is still a challenge. He still wants to be out there, and still wants to show he can play. Midseason practice, fall camp, spring ball, it doesn't matter to Williams.

"It's still important," Williams said. "Just like it was when I was a freshman."

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