August 5, 2008

Jovon Williams: 'Put up or shut up time'

When it comes to Jovon Williams, a glance at the gold roster sheet available to onlookers at practice doesn't nearly tell the real story. For that, you have to look on the field.

Williams is listed at 6-foot-4, 231 pounds on that handout distributed at Arizona State's first practice on Monday.

Thing is, that was about six months and 15 pounds ago.

The man wearing the No. 84 maroon jersey has undergone quite a transformation, having gone from also-ran to the "who is that again?" tight end with NFL athleticism and size to nearly match.

As a sophomore, Williams played in all 13 games, primarily on special teams, and did so at 225 pounds. He had one catch for 11 yards as a backup to Tyrice Thompson at the "U" position, essentially a pass-catching tight end who usually lines up in the slot.

This year, Williams enters the season a chiseled 245 pounds.

That's a pretty good way to show coaches you're serious about wanting to be the guy called upon to replace not only Thompson, but four other since-departed tight ends from last season, Brent Miller, Dane Guthrie, Brady Conrad and Lance Evbuomwan.

"It's put up or shut up time right now," Williams said simply, seriously. "That's exactly what it is."

A junior out of Covina Calif., Williams knows this is his chance. If not now, perhaps never.

"I knew we were losing a lot at our position and I couldn't leave it up to nobody else to try to pick up that slack," he said. "I put it on myself to try to work hard, gain the wait I needed to gain and just do what I got to do to be sure somebody is going to step up.

"I learned a lot from Tyrice. We're kind of the same type of player, you know the hybrid tight end, running routes, blocking every now and then. I really pride myself on my blocking though. I'm not as good as I want to be with it yet and I know I need to get better. That's what I want to work on this camp. I've been working on it all off-season. I got stronger, I got faster, I'm really just focused on my blocking so I can be that player out there on every play."

Some heart-to-heart talks with tight ends coach Dan Cozzetto in the off-season helped push Williams in the right direction. Following those discusses, Williams was among the regular participants in the team's informal conditioning and other activities.

"Coach (Cozzetto) tells us we need leadership at the tight end position," Williams aid. "Me specifically, it was mostly about how I need to grow up and be a man. I did some things I wasn't supposed to, missing a couple workouts I shouldn't have, just real selfish of me. He tells me I need to grow up and be a man. I don't have no choice but to grow up and be a man because I have to be a leader for this tight end group. So I've taken that to heart and that's what I'm doing.

"We've got a good group of guys but we're real young. Me and [Andrew Pettes] are the only guys coming back besides Wes Evans, who has been here but not as a tight end. I just want to be a good leader and a good role model and show these guys how to work hard."

Williams said the off-season efforts have put the program in a position to match or even exceed last season's success in the win column.

"It's hard to tell but we're coming off a great summer conditioning program," he said. "The best I've had since I've been here. We pushed ourselves. Ben (Hilgart) really pushed us to the limit. Everything we did last year, we upped about two or three reps this year just to make sure we were doing more and getting better. I think we've worked hard to take a Pac-10 Championship. I'm not trying to put that out there like that's going to happen, but we've worked hard enough and we have enough talent to have that as our goal, Pac-10 Champion."

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