Gophers' TE Williams back to being a matchup nightmare

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 5, 2014 - 12:29 AM

Gophers tight end Maxx Williams, after rehabbing a knee injury, has returned to defy defenses in spring ball.

hide

Gophers tight end Maxx Williams was relieved when his knee injury didn’t require surgery. He caught 25 passes, including five TDs, last year.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii • rtsong-taatarii@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The flight home from the Texas Bowl was hard enough for the Gophers last December following a disappointing loss to Syracuse. Knowing tight end Maxx Williams had suffered a knee injury in the waning seconds only made it worse.

Williams was one of their best weapons last year, even as a redshirt freshman, and the coaches worried he might have a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The relief was palpable when an MRI exam showed the Waconia native wouldn’t need surgery.

After a few weeks rehabbing a strained medial collateral ligament, Williams resumed his usual workouts. On Tuesday, he looked dangerous as ever as the Gophers opened spring practice.

The team ran only a few 11-on-11 drills, but it was enough time for Mitch Leidner to connect with Williams for three long passes, including two that went for touchdowns.

It was a familiar pattern, with Williams running straight up the field, separating from his defender and looking up to find a tight spiral from Leidner. Those two are roommates and both are redshirt sophomores.

“I’ve said [Williams] is going to be a great player,” coach Jerry Kill said. “He’ll play at the next level, as long as he stays healthy.”

After wide receiver Derrick Engel suffered a torn ACL last November, Williams wound up leading the Gophers with 25 receptions for 417 yards and five touchdowns. Those might not be gaudy numbers, but Williams would have been hard to replace this year if the knee injury had been more serious.

“The kid’s special,” offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said. “We know it. Our opponents know it. Outside observers know it. He’s a kid that there’s just something about him that they don’t come along like him all the time.”

Williams’ parents were Gophers athletes. His mother, Rochelle, was a four-year letter winner in volleyball. His father, Brian, was a first-round draft pick who played 10 years as a center for the New York Giants.

Brian Williams appeared on the verge of tears after the bowl game, as he walked with Maxx back to the team bus. The MRI brightened everyone’s spirits.

“That was a great moment,” Maxx Williams said. “I found out it wasn’t my ACL, and I knew it was just going to be some rehab, no surgery, and all that.

“It took me a little while to start feeling good, but I was feeling good [Tuesday]. And I’m looking forward to the rest of spring ball.”

The Gophers know the offense needs work this spring. Tuesday seemed like a good start, with Leidner looking much more comfortable and confident than he did last spring, when he was backing up Philip Nelson.

Now that Nelson has transferred to Rutgers, Leidner is the clear No. 1 quarterback.

“Our whole football team has gotten better because of Mitch,” Kill said. “When he came back from the bowl game, he was working the next day. And he’s taking care of everybody — defense, offense, everything.”

The Gophers don’t have another quarterback besides Leidner who’s taken a college snap. Redshirt freshman Chris Streveler, who is coming back from right hand surgery, doesn’t have the same zip on his passes as Leidner. And true freshman Dimonic Roden-McKinzy had some expected first-day jitters Tuesday.

“I think there’s a learning curve with the speed of the game,” Kill said. “I thought [Roden-McKinzy] did a nice job, and Mitch has got to continue to coach those guys. Streveler’s the one, coming off his hand surgery, I thought he looked really sharp, but he’s been here a year and a half. He was much more poised.”

The Gophers hope all their quarterbacks keep gaining confidence. Having Williams around as a primary target should only help.

 

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland - WP: C. Allen 4 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: G. Holland 3
Baltimore 0 Top 7th Inning
NY Yankees 4
Kansas City 2 Bottom 6th Inning
Cleveland 0
Seattle 2 Top 6th Inning
Toronto 11
Chicago WSox 2 Bottom 7th Inning
Detroit 0
Pittsburgh 1 Bottom 6th Inning
Atlanta 0
Houston 0 Bottom 4th Inning
Texas 3
St. Louis 1 Top 4th Inning
Chicago Cubs 0
Arizona 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Minnesota 0
LA Angels - C. Wilson 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
San Francisco - J. Peavy 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - D. Haren
Colorado - T. Matzek 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
Chicago 14 1st Qtr 3:39
NY Jets 3
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Ottawa 2 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Ottawa 5:00 PM
NY Islanders
New Jersey 3 3rd Prd 15:23
NY Rangers 2
Detroit 2 3rd Prd 12:44
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 0 2nd Prd 20:00
Philadelphia 0
Washington 2 3rd Prd 18:00
Philadelphia 5
Minnesota 0 2nd Prd
Winnipeg 0
St. Louis 0 1st Prd 4:53
Dallas 1
Anaheim 8:00 PM
Colorado
Colorado 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Arizona
Arizona 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pm
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close