Pitt defensive back K’Waun Williams will be one of the leaders on a veteran Pitt defense that should be the strength of the team this year. He started 11 games last year and finished with 47 tackles, 2.5 TFL, four interceptions and a pass breakup despite missing one game with a shoulder injury. I spoke with Williams on a trip to Pittsburgh this spring to get his take on the defense and the outlook of the team under coach Paul Chryst. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
With nine starters back on defense, how much confidence do you guys have?
K’Waun Williams: There’s definitely confidence. We’ve been playing together for the past two or three years. We can feed off each other. We pretty much know where everybody is going on the field. There’s definitely a lot of confidence within our defense.
What are your expectations for yourself this year?
KW: Just having a great year, just leading our defense and making those big plays so the team can count on me.
How has it been playing under Matt House?
KW: It’s been real good. He was our defensive back coach last year, now he’s the D-coordinator, but his defense is good. Pretty much we’re all going to be playing fast this year, a lot faster than we did last year.
Has he changed a lot?
KW: In his personality or his defense?
KW: He’s a little bit more exciting, he’s anxious. The defense is different, it’s a lot different. It allows us to do certain things we didn’t do last year.
You like it?
KW: Definitely. Definitely like it.
Do you feel any more pressure because he’s your coordinator and position coach?
KW: Not really. I spent the year with him, so we know each other a little bit.
How much have you had to study the playbook this spring because it’s different?
KW: A little bit more than usual. I’m playing a lot of inside coverages and outside coverages. I had to learn a little bit more, and I’m playing a little bit safety.
So do you expect your role to change in this defense?
KW: I would say change, but definitely I’m going to be a little more versatile.
So how has your career gone to this point compared with your expectations?
KW: I feel like it went good. My sophomore year, I did pretty good. Last year I had a decent season. I had a lot of injuries last year. I’m just trying to stay healthy so I can be the best I can be this year.
How important is it to you to go out with a bang?
KW: It’s very important. We’ve been all over the place the past couple of years with coaching changes, everything that’s been going on. This is the first year I’ve had consecutive same coaches, so I’m expecting some big things.
How difficult is that from a players’ perspective?
KW: It’s difficult. Every coach has their own certain things they want with the team. Just having to adapt to each coach, that’s a change, but football is football.
What’s Paul Chryst done to stabilize things?
KW: He’s just building a family. He’s doing a lot of family-oriented things. We come together as a team all the time and we talk. We do certain projects with the community, just bringing us together as a family.
I’m sure when the Wisconsin job came open you guys were aware of the rumors of him going there. How relieved were you to hear he was sticking around?
KW: At this point? I was pretty happy, but we went through so many coaching changes, I knew anything was possible. I was just like, ‘alright.’ I just let it play out.
What’s still hanging out there for you guys to do in summer camp? Any lingering concerns?
KW: I think just build more as a team, more as a family. I think that’s what we’ve been missing the past couple of years. We need to build a family unit so we can know each other better. It’s definitely going to turn over onto the field, because guys will have something to play for.
Is the leadership on the team different this year? Is there more of it?
KW: Yeah, there’s definitely more leadership. Guys are doing extra work, everyone is willing to get better. That’s the main thing, the leadership.
What are you looking forward to most about playing in the ACC?
KW: Just the competition, just to go up against the best each and every week. It should be exciting.
Have you guys looked at Florida State?
KW: I have. I have looked at them. I haven’t really gotten in-depth, but I’ve looked at them.
What do you think about them?
KW: They’re a real good team. They’ve got team speed, big guys.
Any more sense of urgency in the offseason because you guys know you’re kicking off against them?
KW: I would say so, but there’s always a sense of urgency. Always.