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Williams leading with voice, athleticism


East Carolina linebacker Jordan Williams (7) makes a tackle against Cincinnati at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. (File/The Daily Reflector)


The Daily Reflector

Friday, August 11, 2017

Coach Scottie Montgomery and the East Carolina Pirates are counting on Jordan Williams, and Williams is aware.

Montgomery spent part of his recent Media Day address discussing the importance of the senior linebacker, in particular his improved communication and leadership traits.

As appreciative as Williams was of the comments, he added that the communication part is key for any Mike linebacker. He made the switch from the Will to Mike position during preseason camp in 2016, and was one of the Pirates’ breakthrough players as a junior during a 3-9 season.

“Not everybody can be a Mike linebacker,” he said. “You can be the most athletic guy in the world, but if you don’t have that personality to lead people then you can’t play that spot. So I’m very fortunate to be there.”

ECU does not return its top passer, rusher or receiver from 2016, but the leading tackler is back in Williams. He made 77 spots a season ago in his fourth year at East Carolina after initially going to Shaw out of Jack Britt High School.

Set to start alongside Williams in ECU’s new 4-2-5 scheme, which features only two linebackers, is fellow senior Ray Tillman. Montgomery also identified junior college product Cannon Gibbs and true freshman Bruce Bivens from Houston as the lead backups. 

“Ray Tillman is playing the best at the Will position, there’s no question about it,” Montgomery said. “He’s playing really good, so we just have to continue to make sure he’s healthy and his weight is right and everything is good, because he’s a guy that comes out and goes 100 miles per hour.”

Emerging as a leader took time for Williams, who played in all 24 of the Pirates’ games the previous two seasons and started 15 of them. He said when he was an underclassman he tended to be acutely focused not talkative, but he embraced the move to middle linebacker and being more vocal.

The trust and confidence ECU’s coaches have in Williams was maybe most evident earlier this summer when he and senior Jimmy Williams, a receiver and former Washington High School star, were chosen as East Carolina’s representatives to go to Newport, R.I., for American Athletic Conference media days.

“When you have to do a lot of talking and get guys lined up, that was a culture shock, but this offseason I’ve been working hard to get all the guys communicating and stuff,” Jordan Williams said. “It’s going great.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.