In 2012 fall camp and in the early part of the season, Donnell Kirkwood emerged as the Gophers' No. 1 running back. But late in the season, freshman Rodrick Williams came on strong and showed that he could contribute, too.
"The last game made me more comfortable with the rest of the team," he said. "In the beginning of the year, I was kind of just running downhill, not watching. Last year it progressed."
Now a sophomore, Williams said he understands more about the importance of tempo and of working together with the offensive line. He is also expanding his game by learning the pass block.
"He's working at it," head coach Jerry Kill said. "Still got to get better, but he's working at it."
The running back group overall will continue to work on that skill--both newcomers and returners. Whiile Williams may still be learning himself, his year of experience does allow him to help freshman Berkley Edwards get used to Minnesota football.
"What's good is he listens a lot," Williams. "He actually tries to listen and learn the play instead of making excuses for other things."
Williams has been impressed with Edwards, and said that his speed could provide a game-changing contrast to Williams' and Kirkwood's pounding running style. Style differences--from those two to Edwards to David Cobb, Cole Banham and James Gillum--are Williams' favorite aspect of his group of teammates.
While these styles can complement each other effectively in game situations, some backs will still get more carries than others. Fall camp is a battle for playing time, and Williams is enjoying it.
"It's a competitive sport," he said. "Competition just makes the game fun.