Kyle Williams is modest or self-effacing enough to say this of his place in Arizona State’s offense:
“We’re just the pawns. We obviously make the plays, but they’re the puppet masters. We do what they say.”
Offensive coordinator Rob Likens, who pulls the playcalling strings for No. 25 ASU, and virtually any coach in America would embrace Williams’ willingness to subjugate himself for the greater team good. It’s the humble and hungry attitude that head coach Herm Edwards is pushing to keep a 2-0 start in perspective.
Williams, a junior slot receiver, was ASU’s receiving leader last week against Michigan State with seven catches for 104 yards. That’s up from one reception for 21 yards in the season opener vs. Texas-San Antonio when teammate N’Keal Harry had 140 yards.
Again, Williams is more than willing to defer to Harry, whom he calls the “best receiver in the nation.”
“Just having him out there opens me up,” Williams said. “I get a lot of 1-on-1 matchups, and I’ve just got to make those plays. That’s how I make my living out there.”
In the fourth quarter against Michigan State, with ASU trailing 13-6, quarterback Manny Wilkins found Williams open between two defenders for a 38-yard gain. On the next play, Wilkins went to the opposite side to Harry for a 27-yard touchdown, erasing the remainder of what was once a 10-point deficit on the way to a 16-13 win.
“You know how they’re playing N’Keal, they’ve got the big corner on him, yada, yada, yada,” Williams said. “N’Keal is going to get open. You don’t have to worry about that. I’m just happy to also be open one time when he’s not. I just like to be a security blanket and a dependable guy.”
Williams, 5-11, 184 pounds, is about as reliable as it gets on and off the field.
He had 66 catches for 763 yards and seven touchdowns (second in all categories behind Harry) last year with two 100-yard receiving games. And he is a Barrett Honors College student majoring in biomechanical engineering who aspires to become an orthopedic surgeon. He has also been able to shadow Dr. Anikar Chhabra, director of sports medicine at Mayo Clinic.
“Kyle’s just the neatest kid to coach,” said Charlie Fisher, in his first year as ASU wide receivers coach. “He’s always focused, always in to practice and ready to go. We knew we needed to have him involved, and the type of defense Michigan State plays led to a great matchup on their safety. He was able to win the battle most of the time.”
ASU came out with four wide receivers in the second half against Michigan State, a move that forced an early timeout by the Spartans that they would have liked to have had back in the closing minutes.
“It just put more speed on the field and make it harder,” Fisher said. “We’re very diverse in our offensive package. The neat thing is we have the ability to go four wides. We have enough depth and talent. I’ve said all along we’ve got an All-American receiver (Harry), but we’ve got a lot of other really good receivers.”
Williams, out of Murrieta, Calif., is prime among those with Brandon Aiyuk, Ryan Newsome, Ryan Jenkins, Frank Darby, Terrell Chatman and Curtis Hodges all capable receivers, as well.
“The first week I didn’t get many targets, but it all works out in the grand scheme of things,” Williams said. “I’m happy to help, and I was ready to step up.”
Roy Hemsley worked with the first-team offensive line at left guard Tuesday after getting his first ASU start last week at right guard when Steve Miller was out for personal reasons.
Miller is back for Saturday’s game at San Diego State, so Hemsley, 6-6, 335, could be starting next to Casey Tucker, 6-6, 307, on the left side. Both are grad transfers – Tucker from Stanford, Hemsley from USC – with Hemsley having two years of eligibility.
“I just thank the coaches for instilling trust in me,” Hemsley said. “I try to take it a day at a time, stay even keeled, don’t get too high off a good performance or too low off a poor performance. (Tucker) is a guy with a lot of experience, I think that could be a really good tandem.”
Likens said Hemsley “did a great job” subbing for Miller in a rotation with Cade Cote.
“I thought he gave great effort, played tough,” Likens said of Hemsley. “We challenged and he accepted the challenge in front of the team and did a great job.”
RB Smith returns
Running back Trelon Smith is back from two games out due to coach’s decision but now must work his way back into playing time.
“The guys that have been here that have been doing the right things on and off the field, those are the guys we have right now,” running backs coach John Simon said. “Trelon is back, but he has to work himself back. You don’t just leave the house and come back in and sit at the big table.”
Eno Benjamin, Isaiah Floyd, A.J. Carter and Paul Lucas are currently ahead of Smith, per Simon.
No. 25 ASU goes on the road for the first time against San Diego State (1-1) at 7:30 p.m.
The Aztecs won 28-14 over Sacramento State on Saturday after a 31-10 opening loss to No. 9 Stanford.
San Diego State won in Tempe last season.