URBANA (WCIA) — The saying ‘it never hurts to ask’ couldn’t ring more true for Illinois junior Justice Williams.
“I went up to Coach Smith’s office and jokingly asked if I could move to receiver then come spring time, the switch actually happened,” Williams said.
It’s a unique position switch, from linebacker to wide receiver, but a familiar place on the field for the Texas native.
“I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said. “I really missed it since high school so it feels good to be back.”
Williams adds some much needed size to the receiving corps. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, he’s the tallest of the group and the second heaviest.
“Well I want him and Caleb Reams to be the bullies,” Illinois receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker said. “I’m looking for them to muscle people and to go up over the top of guys and get jump balls and to play stronger than the DBs. They’re going to be bigger than most DBs so I’m looking for them to be the muscles of the group.”
“He’s a big body guy that like I said, has very good body control and really good ball skills,” Illinois offensive coordinator Rod Smith said. “So he has the ability to do that. I don’t know if he’s going to out run anybody but he can definitely out jump and out physical people.”
The Illini currently have 16 wide receivers on the roster and only 11 linebackers, but don’t expect Williams to jump back to the defense.
“Hell no, I ain’t letting him play both ways,” Smith joked. “I’m greedy, man. I want him on my side. I want him catching the ball. No, we’ll do what’s best for him, we’ll do what’s best for the team. If Coach (Lovie) Smith would ever want him to do it, I don’t think that’s in the plans though.”
Illinois receivers only caught four touchdowns passes all of last season. Williams’ size and athleticsm will make him and ideal redzone target, something the Illini have lacked the past few years.