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With Speed, Dexter Williams Grabs Irish Coaching Staff’s Attention

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Williams is projected to be Notre Dame’s No. 3 running back this fall.
USA Today

With senior Tarean Folston returning to the Irish backfield after logging only seven snaps prior to suffering a season-ending ACL tear last fall and sophomore Josh Adams looking to build on an Irish freshman-record 835-yard freshman campaign, sometimes Dexter Williams gets lost in the shuffle.

Just not with the Notre Dame coaching staff.

Williams, who played sparingly as a freshman behind C.J. Prosise and Adams, is a home run threat nearly every time he touches the football. His skills were best displayed in a September blowout win over UMass, when he rushed seven times for 48 yards and a touchdown. Expect to see him more often in 2016.

“He’s naturally a really fast guy,” running backs coach Autry Denson said. “That’s just God-given speed. He can run. Also he’s a better pass catcher than he was when he got here and he’s getting a lot more comfortable in there so you can see some things.

“… Dexter plays with a high level of attention to detail, and his want-to [stands out]. Whatever he’s not good at, he really wants to be good at — and that’s synonymous over the group.”

Notre Dame has increased its logging of measurables during the offseason, and Williams’ 40-yard dash time caught the eye of head coach Brian Kelly, who said the Winter Garden, Fla., native registered a 4.51 with his 5-11, 210-pound frame.

“I thought that was very impressive numbers for Dexter,” Kelly said. “… He’s going to be a force to be dealt with, and his workouts have been extraordinary.

“He’s a man, right now, that does not want to get overlooked, and so he’s caught everybody’s attention.”

One year ago, Notre Dame moved Prosise to running back to enhance its depth at the position with Folston and Greg Bryant returning at the position. By the end of the first quarter of the first game of the season, the Irish were without both after Folston’s injury and Bryant’s suspension and subsequent offseason transfer.

One year later, the Irish boast some of the best returning running back experience in college football with Folston, Adams and now the potential of Williams.

“They’re all special. They’re all unique,” Denson said. “That’s not by accident. You don’t want to recruit the same guy. They all have different attributes, different things they do really well, different things they all have to work on.

“Obviously, at every position, this is always the thing. If you could take from each guy and have one guy, he’d be the perfect guy, but that’s just not how it works. You take and you recruit different guys and different skill sets so they can fill and play different roles.”

One of the keys to Williams increasing his playing time will be how he develops as a pass blocker and a pass catcher, Denson notes.

“Just making the natural progression and being more comfortable in the system,” the coach said. “His athleticism is allowed to come out and made a couple good runs.

“I’m more excited about what he’s doing in the passing game and playing without the ball. Just making that next step, which is what he should be doing right now.”