Football

Clemson’s Mike Williams is back and says he’s better than ever

Clemson held its first practice of the season Tuesday. Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams (7) is back after breaking a bone in his neck last year.
Clemson held its first practice of the season Tuesday. Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams (7) is back after breaking a bone in his neck last year. tdominick@thestate.com

Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams isn’t concerned about people who might have forgotten about him after missing all but one series of the 2015 season.

“They’ll remember me again,” he said after Tuesday’s practice.

Williams was back on the practice field in a regular jersey for the first time since last August, as the Tigers opened fall camp. He participated in spring practices as well, but did in a green, non-contact jersey.

Williams said he feels 100 percent healthy and believes he’ll be better than ever in 2016.

“I’m really hungry right now and excited for this year. Watching from the sideline you see the whole field. You get to read defenses better. While I was out I took time just to make my game better in that area,” he said. “I’m a lot stronger and a lot faster so I’m really excited about that.”

Clemson practiced in jerseys and shorts on Tuesday, so the next step for Williams is to put on pads and be tackled.

He’ll get that chance sometime over the next several days. It can’t come soon enough for him.

“I’m a football player, so it’s part of the game. I’ve got to get tackled, so I’m ready for that,” Williams said, adding he doesn’t want his defensive teammates taking it easy on him.

“I don’t want them to hold back. I want the best. I’m ready to see that.”

Adding Williams to a Clemson offense that put up record-breaking numbers in 2015 is almost unfair to defenses.

The Tigers return four of their top five receivers from last year in Artavis Scott, Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow and Ray-Ray McCloud.

Before fracturing his neck against Appalachian State in last year’s opener, Williams was coming off a season where he caught 57 passes for a team-high 1,030 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore in 2014.

“To have him back ready to play is huge. It just changes the dynamics of the game from a defensive standpoint as far as how people try to defend you. You’ve got to have an answer for number seven. … He brings a presence that we’re excited to have back on the field,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said.

“That’s a pretty good duo right there, Mike Williams, and a sophomore Deon Cain, who has been there and played and got some experience, the same thing with Ray-Ray and Artavis. You’ve got a couple of guys with some really good experience.”

Williams is aiming to be the next successful Clemson receiver to make it in the NFL, joining Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, Martavis Bryant and Adam Humphries.

“That’s my goal. I feel like I have the ability to do the same thing they did,” he said.

First Williams has some unfinished business, including helping the Tigers back to the national championship game and finishing the job this time.

“You start thinking like, ‘What if I was out there playing?’ But I wasn’t out there. The results were what they were,” he said. “We’re just looking forward to this year and going out and making things happen.”

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