New Texas Longhorns wide receivers coach Charlie Williams didn't need to find a job this offseason. Let go by the Indianapolis Colts in early January as part of a major staff shakeup, Williams was set to collect a paycheck from his former employer this year regardless. But the chance to come to Texas and be a part of head coach Charlie Strong's staff was not one that he was willing to turn down.
"You can't pass this opportunity up," Williams said during an introductory press conference on Monday. "This is a great opportunity. Like Charlie said, I was at TCU before so I was able to watch this program from a far, the old Southwest Conference. Now to be here and be a part of it, to help make it grow to what it once was, is a great opportunity."
Williams comes to Texas after developing wide receivers like Hakeem Nicks at North Carolina, TY Hilton in Indianapolis, and Keyshawn Johnson in Tampa Bay. So this technical acumen is impressive, but like the rest of the offensive coaching staff outside of running game coordinator/offensive line coach Matt Mattox, he's getting used to the new system this spring.
So while there's a learning curve, it's becoming a steep one -- Williams said that it hasn't taken much time to get used to offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert's scheme.
"I am getting better and better each day," Williams said. "It is a lot of fun. It really is. To watch Sterlin rattle off a play, and then we go do it. It is getting better and better every day."
More than simply understanding the system and developing a familiarity with the plays and terminology used by Gilbert, new coaching staffs have to come to agreements about the philosophical aspects of the teaching process.
"We just talked about receiver play and how I do something and how they do things," Williams said. "We come to an agreement of how we are going to do something, and just learning together. These guys know what they want to do because they have done it. They have proven it. You can see it. I am just another part of the puzzle."
And because of his experience in the NFL, Williams believes that he has the advantage of being able to tell college players what it will take to get to the next level.
From a practical aspect, as former Colts receiver Quan Cosby intimated recently on the Longhorn Network, Williams has two cardinal rules for his receivers.
"The main thing is catch the football," Williams said. "If you are going to be a wide receiver you have to catch the football, so that is the number one thing. Number two, the cardinal rule that we don't do is that we don't put that football on the ground. We will work hard on that too, but the main thing is catch the football. Just get first downs, continue to get first downs and you will get in the end zone."
As a 30-year coaching veteran, Williams understands that each player is unique, coming from a different background and featuring different motivational pressure points. So the initial step of his process is getting to know each of his players personally.
"First and foremost you have to understand where they are coming from," Williams said. "Just like we talked about having a clean slate, anytime there is a new coach there is a new slate. Everybody has their opinion about this kid or that kid, but we always started off with a clean slate and then go from there.
"We sit down and talk and get to know about one another. I get to know about their family and their background, and they get to know about mine. How I coach, what we want to get accomplished, and all the little things. We take it one day at a time."
When he conducts those interviews and hits the recruiting trail, the California native wants to find players who love the game, not guys who merely like the game and are happy that they earned a scholarship to play college football.
While there will certainly be some tough love dispensed from Williams at times, there are certain lines in his relationships with his players that he won't cross.
"We're going to treat them with love and kindness, we're not going to talk down to them and we're not going to swear at them," Williams said. "We're going to get our point across, whether it be on practice field or in the meeting room, but we'll get our point across. And when they score I'll be hugging them, no doubt about it."
Under former wide receivers coach and play caller Jay Norvell, the team developed a rotation during last season, with freshman John Burt leading the way. But with a new coach in place and nearly 50 combined catches departing with the graduations of Daje Johnson and Marcus Johnson, there are opportunities for the younger players because of those losses and a chance for a fresh start under a new offensive coordinator and a new position coach.
"It's all about proving to themselves, first and foremost, because with that being said they are all battling for a position," Williams said. "There are no starters right now. We have a long way to go before we name some starters, so we will be playing musical chairs at the position until the opening date against Notre Dame."