Fraser Caldwell | Ticats.ca Staff
HAMILTON -- Tiger-Cats receiver Chris Williams is very much a known quantity at this stage of his CFL career. After a rookie season in which he dazzled fans and dazed defenders with his sheer speed and athleticism, the sophomore receiver knows full well that the remainder of the league has a “book” on him by now.
But Williams has a few cards up his proverbial sleeve as he looks to build on a campaign in which he amassed over a thousand yards and found the opposition’s end zone six times. Chief among those is the addition under centre of Henry Burris, whose legendary versatility and arm strength should serve to make route running more profitable for the sophomore.
The deadly potential of their combined skills was on full display in the Black and Gold’s preseason opener, when the Williams and Burris hooked up for a 75-yard touchdown strike that demonstrated both the quarterback’s superior range and the receiver’s coverage-busting quickness.
On the topic of that appetizing early exhibition, the sophomore pass catcher argues simply that it was a cog in the collective effort to move the sticks and establish a working offence as the regular season approaches.
“We were just flowing,” says Williams of the touchdown connection. “We were just trying to get the offence right. All of us have special talents and abilities and we were trying to get the match ups right. You never know until you get out there and do it. It’s definitely a huge advantage that we look forward to using this year.”
Another undoubted advantage that the sophomore receiver has at his disposal this season comes in the overall strength of his pass catching unit, whose assortment of weapons should alleviate the defensive pressure on Williams himself. He believes that the ability of the Ticats’ offence to effectively spread the ball is perhaps the most crucial indicator of its success.
“It’s everything,” says Williams of shared distribution among the Black and Gold’s talented receivers. “It’s going to make our offence flow right. We have so many weapons, and if everybody’s touching the ball, making plays and doing big things, it’s really hard for the defence to focus in on one guy. Because there’s four or five that can beat you out there.”
Capitalizing fully on their potential relies on the ability of the Ticats to grasp the execute the schemes laid out as part of Coach Cortez’ new-look offence. For his part, Williams indicates that progress with regards to the playbook is moving well, and that he and his teammates must remain vigilant in their efforts to improve across the board.
“We’re feeling pretty good,” says the sophomore of the receivers’ familiarity with the schematics. “I think we’ve got pretty much everything in, other than a few wrinkles here and there. Now it’s just about getting the repetitions in and acing it, getting it down perfect. We’ve just got to keep getting better every day.
“We’re going to look at every film this year and do the same thing. We’ll go over the stuff that we need to improve on and hit on the things that we did well. The goal is to keep getting better at those things and to be running on all cylinders come playoff time, to not have any mistakes.”
The next step in that process finds the Black and Gold traveling to Winnipeg on Wednesday to take part in their second and final preseason contest of 2012 against the Blue Bombers. It may involve a flight and a strange stadium, but Williams insists that playing the role of visitor does nothing to change the fundamentals of football or his approach to it.
“There are aspects of it that are different,” says the receiver of the upcoming road trip. “But when that clock has 15 minutes on it at the start of the first quarter, you’re ready to play. It’s the same thing, the same game, no matter whether you’re out here at practice or out in Winnipeg or BC. Wherever it happens to be, football is football, and if the team can come out and execute, we’ll have a good chance to win.”
While Wednesday’s exhibition tilt remains the immediate concern, Williams and his teammates surely have the 29th circled in their calendars as the regular season rapidly approaches. The sophomore receiver is quick to show his excitement when the topic of that opening encounter with Saskatchewan arises.
“I’m ready, and I can’t wait for next Friday,” says Williams. “It’s going to be a blast. There’s nothing like playing the game.”