Football

Schedule Challenges: Pooka Williams can run around any defense

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Kansas junior running back Pooka Williams is Les Miles’ most dangerous offensive weapon. Williams has recorded two 1000-rushing yard seasons and rushed for over 90 yards in half of his career games, including two successful outings against the Texas Longhorns.

One week after he rushed for 252 yards against Oklahoma in 2018, Williams appeared to be limited by the Longhorn defense. Todd Orlando’s group could only contain Williams for so long. Williams eluded defenders for a 57-yard fourth quarter touchdown run to bring KU back into the contest that ended with a one-score margin of victory.

His 16-carry, 103-yard performance was just a glimpse at how electric Williams’ could be, but it was difficult to foresee his performance in Austin in 2019. After a one week install of Kansas offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon’s available-on-Apple-Books RPO offense, Williams exploded with 29 touches for 215 total yards and two scores. That was almost two-fifths of KU’s entire offensive output, and almost enough for Kansas to upset the Longhorns in Austin.

The Jayhawks averaged 356 total yards per game before making the switch to Dearmon. From the Texas game to the end of the season, they averaged 400 yards per contest. Williams himself averaged 102 total yards per game before the switch. Afterward, he averaged 128 total yards per game.

Williams was named an All-Big 12 first team running back and he received the 2019 Darren Sproles Waterbug Trophy for Most Outstanding Tiny Person awarded by Ian Boyd. When opposing defensive coordinators prepare for Kansas, they prepare for Pooka Williams.

That’s not only because of how good Williams is, but also because there aren’t offensive threats as established as Williams on the KU roster. Gone is quarterback Carter Stanley, who will be replaced by the winner of a competition. Andrew Parchment and Stephan Robinson combined for 1558 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns last year. They’re solid receivers, but Williams remains the primary threat.

Texas will have to travel to Lawrence to face the Jayhawks in early November after contests with West Virginia, Texas Tech, and Baylor. Kansas is likely the weakest opponent Texas will face in the last month of the season, but before they embark against TCU, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State, Texas can’t ignore Williams’ skill. It almost cost them a victory last season.