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Florida State’s Game Changer

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Early in the third quarter of FSU's game with Nevada, Karlos Williams received the first carry of his collegiate career. A few exhilarating seconds later, he got validation.

He is 6-1, 232 pounds, he runs a 10.5 100 meters, can catch, can run, is very natural with the ball in his hands. He is physical, fast and learns.
~Jimbo Fisher

Karlos Williams came to Florida State as the top-ranked safety in the class of 2011, the gem of another highly-touted recruiting class the Seminoles. At 6'2'', 210 pounds, Williams was as physically-imposing as any prep player in the country. He fit the prototype of the new age run-stopping defensive back, a versatile player capable of filling a number of different roles. His raw talent was simply overwhelming. So, correspondingly, was his potential. 

Because of his athleticism and frame, pundits spent the spring and summer after signing day debating where Williams would ultimately be the most effective on the football field. Those discussions were hardly conclusive and continued throughout the early part of his career.  

"Looks like a huge safety/outside linebacker hybrid. He has a powerful upper body and thick legs. Williams is built a lot like LSU freshman Eric Reid," wrote Barry Every of Rivals.com. "Do not be surprised if he ends up as a linebacker. Williams has the size and tackling ability to make a huge difference at that position. He should also excel on special teams. It is not out of the question for him to be a receiver either because he has the size and hands to make catches over the middle and in the red zone."

Williams started his career as a safety and a return specialist and began making a major impact his sophomore year. Facing South Florida in Tampa, he returned a kickoff back 60 yards roughly an hour from where he grew up. Three weeks later he recorded a key tackle for loss in Florida State's triumph over archrival Miami. He earned his first-ever start, ironically, at linebacker in the ACC Championship Game against Georgia Tech. Stepping in due to injury, Williams led the team with eleven tackles, one TFL and the most important play of the day. With just over a minute left and the Seminoles clinging to a six-point victory, Williams formalized Florida State's first league title since 2005 with a critical interception. 

"I just broke on it and tried to tip it up and bat it down, but luckily it tipped up in the air and I just tried to make a sure catch and that's what happened," the then-sophomore safety explained. "I'm just happy I got the call and we're ACC champs".

Lining up at his new position was meaningful for more than one reason for Williams. In addition to recording the game-winning interception that sent the Seminoles to the Orange Bowl, Williams was able to play right alongside his older brother Vince, now a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In a career filled with many special moments to date, that one continues to stand out.

"You feed off the energy. He makes a tackle, you make a tackle, you're talking to each other, you're both talking garbage to the other team," Williams laughed. "Ya'll both going at it, laughing. It was a great time. It was a great, great, great experience that I'm happy that I got to share with him".

From standing next to his brother to standing alone atop the depth chart, Williams finished spring practice 2013 as the starter at strong safety. By kickoff, however, the secondary was dramatically reconfigured. In the season-opener against Pittsburgh, only free safety Terrence Brooks manned the same starting position he did the year before. All-American candidate Lamarcus Joyner moved back to cornerback and was paired with true freshman Jalen Ramsey. Converted corner Tyler Hunter, not Williams, got the nod next to Brooks.

With running back Mario Pender already ruled academically ineligible for the season, a week one injury to James Wilder, Jr. left Florida State with just two healthy scholarship running backs: starter Devonta Freeman and true freshman Ryan Green. In what appeared to be a problem for the Seminoles, Williams saw an opportunity. After a discussion with head coach Jimbo Fisher, who reportedly long thought his junior safety's future was on offense but did not pursue a move due to player preference, Williams made the switch.    

“He is a natural running back. He is very natural, extremely natural. He is 6-1, 232 pounds, he runs a 10.5 100 meters, can catch, can run, is very natural with the ball in his hands. He is physical, fast and learns," Fisher nodded. "He can change the numbers on the scoreboard in my opinion."

Early in the third quarter of Florida State's week two pairing with Nevada, Williams received the first carry of his collegiate career. A few exhilarating seconds later, he got validation. Williams took an off-tackle hand-off 65 yards up the far sideline for a touchdown, racing past blockers, defenders, doubters and naysayers along the way. He finished the afternoon, his first-ever on offense, with eight carries for a game-high 110 yards and a touchdown.    

“I’m not trying to say that I was rubbing a crystal ball, but that guy is a talented cat. He is very dynamic with the ball, he is big, he is strong and explosive. When he gets space he can hit home runs and he’s hard to tackle because he’s a big, physical guy there too," Fisher stated. "I was very proud. Karlos will provide us with a very big piece to the puzzle in my opinion as the year goes on.”

Williams is now a running back for Florida State. More so, however, he has been a team-first contributor on a championship-level squad. Including his time as a kick returner, Williams has taken the field at four different positions for the Seminoles. He has made both plays and memories everywhere he's been.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports