STORRS — Perhaps Kyle Williams could have opted to suit up at one of the Division II or III football programs in Connecticut and could have earned regular playing time in the secondary as early as his freshman year. The former Hamden Hall star took a much more challenging path by being a non-scholarship player at UConn.
With one season remaining Williams has three tackles to his credit, but if the events transpiring during UConn’s spring practice serve as a peek into the future, Williams could see more time in the defensive backfield in the 2019 season.
Williams spent the early part of spring drills getting work with the first team and seeing time with the top group when five or six defensive backs were on the field.
“I got reps at the corner and the dime package so I am just trying to show my worth at either position so when the season comes I will be able to be ready and contribute,” Williams said.
Williams is one of the few experienced options at the cornerback position along with junior Tahj Herring-Wilson. Freshmen Ryan Carroll, Shamel Lazarus, Jeremy Lucien and Keyshawn Paul all started at least one game at cornerback as true freshmen and there was a three-game stretch in the middle of the season when both starting outside cornerbacks were players just several months removed from graduating from high school.
Lucien missed spring practice due to offseason shoulder surgery so it remains to be seen how his role and those of the other rising sophomores develop under new defensive coordinator Lou Spanos and with Darrell Perkins back to coach the defensive backs. Paul was first player mentioned when UConn coach Randy Edsall was asked if any players surprised him during the first 14 spring practices. More young defensive backs will arrive in July so Williams has no guarantee of his playing time in the fall. Still, he is doing what he can to help his younger teammates adapt to college life both on and off the field.
“Just try to teach the guys consistency whether it is in the building, in the classroom or in your social life how everything affects everything,” Williams said. “It is just a giant circle when it comes to our lives as student-athletes so just teaching them consistency, being about your business when we are in the building studying film, in practice or in the classroom.”
Williams is already seeing his hard work paying off with the quality reps he is seeing in spring drills and he has no regrets about the path he chose.
“I am enjoying this experience because there are a lot of guys who came in with my class are all from the same area, we are all from Connecticut and a lot of guys who were here before me are from Connecticut and went through the process,” Williams said. “Matt Walsh, he is from Hand, he went through the same process as me. We talked a lot my freshman year about the process and how you have to grind it out and eventually you will be rewarded.”
UConn will scrimmage on Friday in the final spring practice of 2019. The decision was made to start spring practice a little early and not have a spring game. Edsall said he is happy about making that change. He’s said he has seen progress in offense, defense and special teams. Much of work, especially on defense, was focused on picking up a new defensive system. There will be extra time for players to take part in the conditioning program and to heal up from injuries. Edsall said there are no new long-term injury concerns heading into the final practice. Running backs Kevin Mensah and Art Thompkins were held out of Thursday’s practice with lower-body injuries and won’t take part in the scrimmage.
UConn is hosting what it is calling an open house and fan fest on April 6 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on campus with tours of the Burton Family Football Complex and Shenkman Training Center. There will be mini-clinics conducted, an autograph session and question and answer session with players and coaches. Admission is free.