Dee Williams muffed the punt at the South Carolina 47, scooped it up at the 42, dodged the first would-be tackler, split two defenders around the 20 and followed William Wright’s dominating block into the end for a touchdown.
The score was nullified by a needless block in the back at least 15 yards from Williams.
But you couldn’t erase what you saw.
Tennessee’s Williams is one of the most dynamic return specialists in the nation. He would have led the nation at 18.7 yards per punt return last year, but he didn’t have enough games to qualify. He is averaging 16.8 per punt return this year – fifth in the nation — and the average would be higher if not for a key penalty.
Vols coach Josh Heupel acknowledges Williams is “dynamic’’ with the football.
Williams, a cornerback, hardly plays any defense. So with wideout Bru McCoy out for the season with a fractured ankle and the Vols still trying to find a replacement for last year’s Biletnikoff Award winner Jalin Hyatt, why not try Williams at receiver?
Heupel was asked that very thing at a recent Knoxville Quarterback Club meeting.
When asked to repeat the question, Heupel, who has been quizzed about that topic before by the media, let it be known he’s tired of discussing the subject.
“The question was, `You said Dee Williams looks really good with the ball in his hands, so why the hell haven’t you put him on offense?’’’ Heupel said.
The crowd roared in laughter. Heupel chuckled.
But the low-hanging fruit of a valid question was still out there.
Heupel responded: “Dee is special, man. There’s a lot of pieces that go into being able to play within our offense and the structure and the tempo of it. He is a special playmaker. We’ve got to continue to find ways to help him make a difference in the football game.’’
Is that a hint that Heupel plans to use Williams some on offense?
I understand Heupel’s point about the complexity of the offense. You have to be a good route runner, read the defense, know the formations, catch rocket-speed passes and block.
To simplify things for Williams, he could run a jet sweep or a reverse.
He could run a flanker or bubble screen.
He could run a go pattern.
And, to keep him on the field to avoid substituting, he could be a decoy. He doesn’t have to touch the ball on every snap.
Heupel said UT needs to continue to make big plays in the passing game.
“In my tenure here and before that,’’ Heupel said, “we’ve always been extremely explosive down the football field.’’
UT has 12 plays from scrimmage of 40 or more yards – which ranks among the nation’s leaders.
It might get more if Williams is used some on offense.