Running Back Instincts: Karlos Williams

Nick Whalen


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This is the last segment in my Running Back Instincts series and we’re going to be looking at Karlos Williams from Florida State. Williams is a converted safety and has only played running back for one year in college. He possesses very good speed combined with a powerful body frame. Williams gets to top speed quickly and had a productive first season as a running back. Most in the devy community have him as a top rated back and project him to have a great career in the NFL because of his potential.

While I acknowledge Williams is a good athlete, I don’t think he has great potential in the NFL. He is an athlete trying to play running back, instead of a running back trying to be an athlete. Having both in the same player likely means a Pro Bowler or even a Hall of Famer such as Barry Sanders and Adrian Peterson. However, Williams gets what is blocked for him and bounces to the outside on a large majority of his runs. He doesn’t have a feel for the position and misses out on many opportunities for extra yardage. Some believe this will come with time, but I think it’s something you’re born with. Coaching may help improve on picking the right hole, but running backs react more than anything on the field. Currently, Williams reacts in a way that shows he’s blind to opportunities and simply gets by on his athletic ability. Once he enters the NFL with much better athletes, I feel that he will disappoint those great expectations. I still think he could potentially hold down a low end starting position, but I don’t see top ten fantasy football ability.

Let me show you some of the opportunites Williams is missing out on and you can be the judge.

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Williams (yellow circle) took a direct snap on a fake punt and runs around the right edge. His primary objective is to convert the 4th and 7. The play was well executed leaving only one defender (blue circle) between Williams and a first down. He has a blocker (gray circle) moving well downfield as an option to use if he wants to go inside.


Here, Williams bounces outside and his trajectory (black arrow) is taking him near the sideline. His defender (blue circle) has an angle to cut him off (blue arrow).


Objective accomplished, Williams converted the 4th down into a 1st down. Now, how about trying to score a touchdown? The defender has a step on Williams and has the correct pursuit angle to cut him off. Williams could stop, hesitate, spin or cut to get inside the defender and then use his blocker for the only remaining defender in the punt returner.


Williams thought he could just run by the defender and gets pushed out of bounds. This shows how much he is lacking the instincts to make the bigger play, when only one subtle move was the difference between a potential touchdown and a 12 yard gain.


A few seconds into an outside run reveals Williams one on one with a defender (blue circle). Williams’ running path (black arrow) is angling towards the sideline.


Two strides later, Williams is simply lowering his shoulder into the defender to gain a few more yards. I’m not upset that he finished the run because I like the added yardage. However, Williams didn’t even notice what could’ve been there if he went inside. Look how the defenders lower body (blue circle) is turned completely towards the sideline, leaving him vulnerable to any move inside and he would only be able to get a weak arm tackle attempt on Williams. Also, if he cuts inside an extra blocker (yellow circle) lurks with lots of green grass.


This run versus Miami gets highlighted often because it was a nice cutback for a big gain. Williams does one nice instinctual thing here and one bad one. Williams’ running path (black arrow) is running to daylight with a defender (blue circle) close in quickly (blue arrow).


Sensing he won’t succeed at getting through that hole, Williams changes his running angle more outside (black arrow) and causes the defender (blue arrow) to adjust. Williams gains yardage here because now he extended the time and the angles the defenders would need to take before he could get tackled.


Only a few frames later, the distance between Williams’ path (black arrow) and the defender (blue circle) becomes more apparent. Now he’s focusing on the outside defender (yellow circle) being blocked by Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin is a big physical wide receiver and he has caused the defender to be off balance. Now if you were running with the football and see a defender thrown off balance, where is the one place you wouldn’t go? That’s right; the one direction the defender is being thrown off balance. The defender is unable to change direction because he’s just trying to regain his balance, leaving Williams with a wide variety of possibilities to get by the defender and score a touchdown.


This angle reveals perhaps a better depiction of how off balance the defender (yellow circle) was at the time.


Williams chooses to continue his path around the outside and stiff arm the defender. The momentum of both actions causes him to get pushed out of bounds. Good play by Williams and a big gain, but so much more could’ve happened if he would’ve done anything to avoid an out of control defender.


Williams (yellow circle) cuts back after taking the hand off and is looking to gain yardage. Two defenders (blue circles) are closing in on him in the hole and another defender (red circle) is pursuing over the top. Two versus one, what would you do? Personally, I would try and even the odds to only take on one of the defenders. I’d preferably go after the weaker player, which in this case would be the cornerback at the bottom of the screen and allow Williams to use more of his speed as well.williams13


Williams gets bear hugged by the first defender, while the other two close in on him. It’s a good gain for a first down, but so much more could’ve happened if Williams had some natural instincts.


The final play we’ll view of Karlos Williams is from the Idaho game last season. Here, he (yellow circle) is running up the sideline and doesn’t have a lot of room to work with. The good news is every defender is being blocked giving him time to gain extra yardage. The closest defender (red circle) is fighting off his block but looks to be far enough away for Williams to sneak by him.


Two frames later and Williams (yellow circle) did get by the defender (red circle). At this moment, he has an option to cut to the middle of the field (black arrow) to gain valuable yardage. The only defender in his way (blue circle) is being blocked towards the sideline with little room to spare.


Williams chooses to lower his shoulder into the defender being blocked and gets tackled near the sideline.

Some may view this article as being overly critical of Karlos Williams and you’re right. My job is to be very critical because I want to know all information possible before I spend a valuable devy pick and I assume you do as well. Football is a game of inches and Williams doesn’t take advantage of those inches. Therefore, I would much rather spend a devy pick on a running back with instincts like Mike Davis, even if he’s a slightly worse athlete.


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