When Damien Williams signed with Oklahoma last February, he did so with little fanfare. A transfer from Arizona Western, Williams was considered a quality running back who could help provide depth in a Sooners backfield that featured Roy Finch, Brennan Clay and a soon-to-be healthy Dominique Whaley.
While many people in this region didn’t understand what Williams was capable of, the Cali Trio -- OU’s three juniors from California comprised of Clay, receiver Kenny Stills and safety Tony Jefferson -- had high expectations.
“I expected a lot from him when he got here, he’s a San Diego cat so you know he got skills,” Jefferson said. “I feel like he’ll play an important role in our offense this year.”
Said Stills: “We all heard about each other when we were growing up through scouting. I knew he was gonna help us in the run game.”
Even Clay, who battles Williams for playing time at running back, believed the junior college transfer could make this type of impact.
“Damian Williams played for my rival [in high school],” Clay said. “He can play, I know he can ball out. Him and I went at it [in high school]. Him and I are great competition, we’re going to feed off each other.”
Four games into the season, Williams is making the Cali Trio look prophetic while proving to be the Sooners' most complete and explosive running back.
After the Sooners' upset loss to Kansas State, coach Bob Stoops looked at his roster and made one thing clear to the media: Damien Williams needed to get the football more.
“We've talked and we want to get Damien [Williams] more carries and more opportunities,” Stoops said before the Texas Tech game. “He's been strong taking care of the football, but also making big plays and getting extra yards."
At the time, Williams was averaging 10.7 touches per game and 9.8 yards per touch for the Sooners in a backup role.
At 6-foot, 208 pounds, Williams brings speed, power and versatility to the Sooners' offense. All those attributes were on full display during Saturday’s performance against Texas Tech. Against the Red Raiders, Williams had 14 carries for 48 yards and six receptions for 82 yards in his first start of the season.
Williams is averaging 7.8 yards per carry and 12.8 yards per reception this season. For an OU offense which has been searching for game-breakers early this season, Williams has been the answer.
The Sooners have five plays of over 30 yards this season and Williams has three of them. While his toughness is readily apparent in the powerful way he finishes runs, his breakaway speed was on display during an 89-yard touchdown run against Florida A&M, a 65-yard touchdown run against UTEP and a 38-yard reception against TTU.
And the Sooners are hoping he continues to be the answer against a Texas defense which has allowed 207 rushing yards and two touchdowns (6.7 yards per carry) to West Virginia’s Andrew Buie and 199 rushing yards and two touchdowns (8 ypc) to Joseph Randle of Oklahoma State in back-to-back games.
While the Sooners will have to get a good game from quarterback Landry Jones, Williams could be the key. His big-play ability, pass-catching ability and power running give OU options and opportunities to take some of the burden off of Jones.
When Williams plays well and OU gets him involved in its offensive attack, the Sooners become much more explosive.