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Keith Taylor: UK running back Boom Williams focused on staying healthy, finishing games

Stanley “Boom” Williams knows what the difference has been in Kentucky’s 14 losses during the past two years and said the Wildcats are determined to end the late-season meltdowns this year.

Williams, the team’s leading rusher in his first two seasons, said not folding down the stretch will pay off in big dividends and produce better results for the Wildcats at crunch time.

  Despite enduring injuries and other issues, Boom Williams has led UK in rushing during the past two seasons (Bill Thiry Photo)

Despite enduring injuries and other issues, Boom Williams has led UK in rushing during the past two seasons (Bill Thiry Photo)

“The main thing we’ve been preaching this off-season is to finish,” Williams said. “That’s the main thing we want to do. Once we have those chances to win the close games and in the end, we want to be able to finish those games and get some wins.”

In addition to putting more victories in the win-loss column, Williams is hopeful he can play a complete season free of injuries and personal issues that limited the 5-foot-9 running back to 10 appearances last season. Williams missed a game because of personal issues and endured an elbow injury during the second half the season. Williams sat out most of spring workouts while rehabilitating his injury shoulder and reported to camp “100 percent” healthy. He had just 11 carries combined in crucial contests against Tennessee and Louisville.

Despite the unfortunate circumstances on and off the field, Williams led the Wildcats in rushing last season (855 yards) and averaged 85.5 yards per game, eighth-best in the Southeastern Conference. Although he missed most of spring workouts, Williams spent more time in the film room to get a better understanding of offensive coordinator Eddie Gran’s system, which he says provided an inside glimpse of what to expect in the backfield.

“I’ve been studying the game a lot more and just to come out and have a clear understanding of what’s going on,” Williams said. “That makes the game mush easier. I’ve been watching a lot of games during the off-season trying to think of ways we could have bettered ourselves. It’s been a very productive off-season and I’m looking forward to (the season).”

Williams has gotten a grasp of Gran’s offense and said playing for three different coordinators in his short tenure with the Wildcats has proven to be beneficial.

“I don’t want to say there are any differences, but it’s a very good thing we’ve been able to learn those different offenses in a short amount of time and go out there and produce,” Williams said. “It’s a business and a job. You just have to be a sponge and be able to adapt to different people, different things and different environments.”

Williams also has slimmed his weight and dropped five pounds going into his third season with the Wildcats and hopes it results in fewer injuries.

“I’ve been taking care of my body and making sure I am healthy,” Williams said. “That’s been the main thing and also focus on myself (during the off-season).”

To avoid any missteps, Gran is hopeful Williams can stay healthy during the rest of fall camp. Williams missed the team’s first scrimmage of camp last Saturday, but his absence was for precautionary measures. Gran added that Williams’ duties in the offense will involve more than running the football.

“He’s got to make sure that he can protect our quarterback when he needs to and that he can understand the run game,” Gran said. “He’s kept up with it (and) he just needs to be healthy and get through (fall camp).”

While moving past his injuries has been the main focus for Williams, he also has been getting over the loss of his younger sister Kenyatta Millworks, who passed away tragically in July. Williams has been getting emotional support from his teammates and coaching staff.

“That’s a tough deal he went through and you can’t even imagine it unless it happens to you,” Gran said. “He’s going through a lot, but what we’ve talked about was that you have to move on and he’s been doing that. He’s been unbelievable and hopefully we can help him through that and he can stay healthy.”

On the field, Williams is looking forward to the team’s season-opener against Southern Mississippi on Sept. 3 and is anxious to showcase his skills in Gran’s pro-style offensive attack.

“Coach Gran is a good coach, he knows a lot and he has sent a lot of guys to the next level,” Williams said. “We’re learning from him and it’s been fun learning from him. It’s going to be fun to work him through camp and through the fall. It should fun and we’re looking forward to it. The offense should be fun as well.”

Game tracker: Southern Miss at Kentucky, 7:30 p.m., Sept. 3. TV/Radio: ESPNU; 98.1 FM WBUL.

Keith Taylor is a senior sports writer for KyForward, where he primarily covers University of Kentucky sports. Reach him at keith.taylor@kyforward.com or @keithtaylor21 on Twitter

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