Since the institution of the NFL draft, Baylor has mainly been known for supplying offensive and defensive linemen to the professional ranks (60 out of 155 draft picks).
However, things have changed a bit in Waco lately, as three wide receivers were picked in the NFL or supplemental draft since 2010. Before that, only nine Baylor wideouts were selected from 1936-2009.
It sure looks that way, especially after back-to-back seasons producing All-Americans in Kendall Wright and most recently Terrance Williams.
Many thought Williams would have a significant drop-off from his junior year (59 catches for 957 yards and 11 TDs), when Wright and fellow All-American Robert Griffin III left for the NFL. Instead, the 6-2, 205-pound Williams hauled in 97-1,832-12 on his way to All-American honors.
Baylor passing coordinator Kendal Briles said that with Wright gone, he wanted Williams to step up into a leadership role in encouraging his offensive teammates.
Not only that, Williams got reacquainted with QB Nick Florence, Williams’ QB for the better part of his redshirt freshman season.
“That summer when Robert left, we got back together and started getting on the same page with the routes,” Williams said. “We came three times a week to practice the routes and just know where each of us are going to be. Once we mastered that, we knew we were going to be ready for the season.”
Williams quickly became Florence’s go-to receiver, and it showed during a five-game stretch against Big 12 competition, when Williams exploded for 54-987-6, including 314 yards against West Virginia.
“It was me being a competitor and trying to do the best I can to help my team win,” explained the Maxwell Award finalist. “Basically, when my number was called, I had to join that play. Those were the games where I had my mind molded so to join that play when they called my number.”
Briles, who also coached Panthers WR David Gettis and Browns WR Josh Gordon, compares Williams to Jerry Rice with his smooth play and secure hands.
“He’s got a great knack to get open,” Briles said. “He’s a quarterback’s friend. Somehow and someway, Terrance is going to get open and find a way to come down with the ball. He has a great knack for playing receiver and knowing the position. He makes my job coaching pretty easy. I just put him on the field and watch him work. I think that part of him is similar to the way Jerry Rice played the game.”
The recent boom in wideouts excelling at Baylor, Briles said, is in part because the coaches prevent receivers from being hit during practice, and the strength and conditioning program, run by Kaz Kazadi, properly develops their strength and keeps them healthy.
Good play-calling doesn’t hurt either.
“They want us to play the best we could,” Williams said. “With what David, Kendall, Josh and I did, what we all learned is that they put us in spots where we could have the long, big plays from feeding off the run. If people like us keep going to the league, then Baylor is a very hot spot where you would want to keep coming. To have people with that type of yardage, it would seem like a hot spot to me.”
His good friend, Wright, talks to him two to three times a week and lets him know the NFL is a lot faster and relies more on timing and rhythm than route running.
“You’ve got to have your head in the game every single play, and you have to be in the right spot at the right time for the quarterback to come your way, and you never know when they will come your way,” Williams said. “You’ve got to keep paying attention to that.”
The future first-round pick not only will make his future NFL team really happy, but his play might convince other wideouts that Baylor is the program to fully develop their talents.