CLEMSON – It took just one start for Mike Williams to make a lasting impression.
In the first starting assignment of his career, two years ago against Wake Forest, Williams made a nifty, sliding 14-yard touchdown catch.
He’s made a habit of making spectacular receptions on a regular basis ever since, so it’s not surprising that the junior wide receiver is poised to achieve another level of greatness this fall.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney isn’t much for comparisons, but admits that he sees a lot of DeAndre Hopkins in Williams.
“He’s a bigger, stronger Nuk Hopkins,” Swinney said, referring to the former Tiger who plays for the Houston Texans. “If he reaches the physicality and killer instinct of Hopkins, then there’s a whole other level for him.”
That level would be the NFL, which looms as a distinct possibility for the preseason All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection.
After 57 catches for 1,030 yards and six touchdowns last season, Williams could be confronted by a major decision come season’s end if he lives up to his own expectations.
“I don’t think about that too much,” Williams said. “If I have the year I’m thinking about having, everything else will fall into place.”
Things always have seemed to fall into place for the rangy 6-foot-4 receiver from the tiny town of Vance in Orangeburg County. At Lake Marion High, Williams had 126 receptions for 2,691 yards and 21 touchdowns over his final two seasons, earning recognition as the No. 3 player in the state by ESPN in 2012.
He certainly has done his part to continue the burgeoning wide receiver tradition at Clemson that has seen the likes of Chansi Stuckey, Aaron Kelly, Jacoby Ford, Sammy Watkins and Hopkins pass through the program in the past decade.
“I would like to be one of those elite guys,” Williams said. “But right now I’m just trying to make plays for my team.
“I’ve got to get more physical in the boundary. I’ve been able to put on a few pounds and also have gotten quicker and faster.”
Williams came to Clemson at around 190 pounds; he now checks in around 215, with no detectable loss in speed.
Williams also has shown that he’s more than willing to impart as much knowledge as possible to many of the younger receivers, including Trevion Thompson, who has shined in fall camp, and freshman Deon Cain.
While watching video the other day, co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said he had to hit the replay button to confirm whether he was watching Williams or Thompson.
“That’s a good thing,” Scott said. “There’s definitely a lot of good competition in the boundary with Mike Williams, Trevion and Deon. Those are three special guys. It keeps Mike Williams on his toes, that’s for sure.”
And Williams is embracing the competition in what could be his final fall camp as a Tiger.
“It has been big for all of us,” Williams said. “If people double up on me, we’ve got two great receivers on the other side. We help each other out there on the field. All the freshmen are looking real good. They’re catching on fast and making a lot of plays out there.”
Much like Williams did when he debuted two years ago.
“I’ve always pushed myself every day in practice,” Williams said. “That’s the key.”