first_img Published on October 9, 2014 at 12:29 am Contact Phil: [email protected] | @PhilDAbb Facebook Twitter Google+ Scott Shafer didn’t look happy, but Wayne Williams knew how to cheer him up.The nose tackle stopped the head coach as he walked through the Syracuse locker room following a practice a week before the Orange’s opener in August.Williams weighed 365 pounds when he arrived at Syracuse early in 2014, and 315 was the goal the SU coaches set for him by season’s start.Williams brought Shafer over to a scale and stepped on it. It read 312.“I think we probably had one of those practices,” Williams said. “I just gave him some good news. He was like, ‘That’s my boy.’AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“He gave me a pat on the back and went out there with a smile.”It took Williams more time and more effort than originally planned, but he’s slowly starting to contribute to SU’s top-50 run defense. In his first year at Syracuse (2-3, 0-1 Atlantic Coast), the 6-foot-4 junior has cracked Syracuse’s two-deep at the nose tackle position for the second week in a row after falling off the previous two weeks.Williams has logged eight tackles on the year and in the Orange’s loss to Louisville on Friday, recovered a fumble and made three tackles, two of which were unassisted.But none of Williams’ ongoing contributions would be possible if he hadn’t dedicated himself to dropping 50 pounds since the beginning of the calendar year.“Wayne did a nice job following the program,” Shafer said. “Now he’s at the point where he’s really giving us some good reps on tape and he’s had the ability to play much longer, much harder, much more consistent.“It’s nice to see a young man begin to find himself like Wayne has on the football field.”After Lincoln High School, Williams went across Brooklyn, New York to ASA College and committed to Syracuse in May 2012 as part of the Orange’s 2013 recruiting class.Academics delayed his arrival at SU until this January. But upon that arrival, the SU coaches discovered that Williams had some weight to trim.He weighed 365 pounds — the result of eating “good mama food,” he said, and slacking on his workout routine — and hadn’t learned how to play team football.“The bar was set extremely high for him. Was that realistic coming in here? Probably not,” said SU defensive line coach Tim Daoust. “He needed to come in here, get a dose of reality that he had to start back over at the bottom and work his way up. That was hard to swallow at the beginning.”Williams said there was no expectation from the coaches when he got to SU. And they weren’t upset or disappointed about his weight, he added, as long as he trimmed down.Will Hicks, Assistant Athletics Director for Athletic Performance, essentially became Williams’ personal trainer for the summer.“He didn’t care about anybody else but me for that whole summer,” Williams said. “I told Coach Hicks when I was young and a loudmouth coming up here, ‘I want to be the best D-tackle to ever play here.’ And he’s been making me eat those words ever since I stepped here.”Williams spent hours each day on a StairMaster, doing four sets of 20-minute sessions. He removed cheese and most breads from his diet and replaced them with more salad. He hasn’t had a soda since coming to SU, he said.Though Williams still needs to work on his strength, he feels the difference when he’s moving around on the field, particularly in his immediate movements off the snap. Still, there was a learning curve that sometimes went beyond the physical adjustments.In August, Daoust kicked an agitated, banged-up Williams out of a training camp drill.At the high school and junior college level, he said, the coaches’ thinking process was, “Let Wayne do what he wants to do, he’ll make a big play.”“Here, I had to know everybody has a gap,” Williams said, “everybody has an assignment and stay on that assignment.”His biggest improvement with the Orange has been in cutting down on missed assignments, he said. He’s learned to stay in his gap and broken his old habit of giving up on plays once the ball carrier passes him.Williams is pushing himself to learn the intricacies of the Orange’s “Okie” package, a 3-3-5 configuration, so he can expand his role beyond being a run-stopper in the base defense on first and second downs.If he can do that effectively, he can please Shafer even more than he did by stepping on a scale.“They didn’t believe that I was losing so much weight,” Williams said. “I’m like, ‘Coach, I’m doing it.’” Commentslast_img