After three years of anonymity, senior Andre Williams has established himself as the best running back in the nation.
So what caused this transformation? I believe it has come on the heels of the transformation of an entire program and its philosophy. The way Andre Williams plays epitomizes the philosophy of Coach Steve Addazio: hard-nosed football with the expectation of resilience and accountability.
Williams was recruited at the dawn of the Frank Spaziani era in 2010. He was a three-star recruit out of Pennsylvania and the No. 44 overall running back in the class, go figure.
Spaziani was no stranger to talented running backs; he had been BC’s running back coach during Mike Cloud’s 1998 All-American season—and later on as head coach during the emergence of Montel Harris, who eventually broke the BC freshman rushing record and was selected to the All-ACC second team two years in a row.
During Montel Harris's junior year, Williams came into a backfield that offered him plenty of room to grow.
Behind Harris, Williams gained a respectable 461 yards throughout the season, averaging nearly five yards a carry in his freshman year.
However it’s the two years that follow, after the Montel fiasco (which need not be elaborated here), that remain a mystery as to why Williams never emerged as the workhorse he is today. His yards per carry average dropped from his average throughout his freshman year and his number of carries was nearly the same, only 124 and 130, for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, respectively.
Perhaps Spaz did not see the same potential he had seen in the successful backs he had coached before—and, as a result, held Williams back for 2 years. Perhaps an equal contribution to Williams’ sophomore and junior slumps was the negative attitude that plagued the BC football program, as losses mounted and negative outlooks ran rampant on the heights.
Under Spaz, the 2012 Eagle offense was predictable, constantly running the ball until long third downs or until seemingly insurmountable scoreboards forced the pass. With the combination of a repetitive playbook and split carries with Deuce Finch, Williams struggled to make an impact against many of the ACC's stout defensive squads.
The team itself struggled to make an impact against just about any team, limping to a 2-10 record that had the whole school calling for the firing of Spaziani and athletic director Gene DiFilippo. Both were relieved of duty after the season. And with the surprise departure of Finch during the spring of 2013, the stage was set not only for the establishment of a new culture in the BC football program, but also for the establishment of a new Andre.
The unrecognizable DiFilippo was replaced by Brad Bates, who solidified his presence on the Heights immediately, not only in the sense that I knew who he was and what he looked like (unlike my previous 2 years with Gene), but also in his call for change and his desire to bring about a winning tradition, which began with his hiring of Steve Addazio.
Daz may look eerily similar to Spaziani, but, right away, he brought more energy and transparency than could have ever been imagined during the Spaz era. The BC community latched onto this excitement—and it seemed, from the start, that the 2013 team had been reinvigorated by the mantra of “dude.”
Andre Williams has become the ultimate dude. He runs with the same energy and excitement that Addazio has on the sidelines, and he carries himself with the same character the coach preaches to the BC football program. Williams has not simply improved under the new system; he has flourished. With three games left (including a bowl game), he is the leading rusher in the nation with 1810 yards and 14 touchdowns, both more than his previous three years combined, and he is averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Williams now finds himself in the running for the award given to the best running back in the nation, the Doak Walker.
It’s a shame that Andre missed out on the chance to have more productive years that could have given him more national exposure and could have even put him in the running for the Heisman. However, it has been a true pleasure to watch him run this year; he has given more to the BC community, inspiring hope for the return of a winning tradition, than we could ever show him proper thanks for.
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