However, the one strength in the Idaho passing game that can be counted on going into this season is the performance of senior H-Back Eddie Williams. He doesn't play a position that normally gets tons of headlines, but he has been one of Idaho's most reliable receivers – and best blocking and versatile athletes – throughout his career. These attributes led to Williams lining up at tightend, fullback, and wide receiver last year.
So, what exactly is an H-Back? Pro Football Weekly provides the following description to differentiate between a tightend and an H-Back:
A tightend generally lines up next to the tackle, close to the line of scrimmage on the strong side. He is generally in a down position with one hand down on the ground. An H-back often goes in motion and is used as a blocker in a momentum situation, where he's in motion and turning upfield at the time the block needs to be thrown. Or, the H-back can be used more like a flanker. By putting the H-back in motion, the offense creates confusion for the defense: who's going to guard him; when he blocks, whom is he going to go after; etc. The H-back is generally more of an athletic player than the tightend.This defines Eddie pretty closely. He's been a cog in the Vandal offense since his true freshman season, when he played in eight games and started the season finale at San Jose State. That season he hauled in 10 receptions for 39 yards and one touchdown.
As a sophomore in 2006 he earned an increased role in the tightend rotation, and finished the season with seven receptions in eight games for 116 yards, including a season-best performance of two receptions for 79 yards against Oregon State.
Last season was Eddie's best, in which he played all over the field for Idaho and started 12 games for the Vandals. His role as H-Back saw him play fullback and tightend extensively, but his strengths as a receiver saw him lineup at slot, split end and flanker to make-up for deficiencies in Idaho's young and developing receiving corps. He finished second best on the team last year with 29 receptions, gaining 363 yards (3rd on team) for an average of 12 yards per catch, and he also scored three touchdowns. What many Idaho fans may not know is that he also carried the rock nine times for 81 yards and scored three rushing TDs. He also recorded two solo tackles on special teams.
His strength - according to most publications - is the fact that he's a highly productive blocker at tightend and H-back. But if the Vandal passing game takes off this fall, Eddie could be poised for a stellar 2008 season as a primary receiver and also as a safety outlet.
In the spring game the Idaho H-Backs and tightends stood out. Eddie led all receivers with five receptions for 107 yards – a 21.4 yards per catch average. Fellow H-Back junior Kevin Small – as a highschool senior Small was listed by Rivals.com as a 3-star tightend prospect, the No. 73 prospect overall in the state of California, and the No. 28 tightend prospect in the nation for the 2005 recruiting class – added four receptions for 53 yards and a 13.3 yards per catch average. A solid one-two punch by the duo by most measures.
What the stats don't show though is the fact that Williams played the part of lead blocker, zone blocker, and decoy throughout the game, much as he has throughout his career. His best games – the games where his contributions mean the most – aren't always punctuated with glittering stats.
But his impact on this offense, and what he does as much behind the scenes as when he's called on to make a key reception, is getting noticed.
Though he would likely not want to talk about it – at least not at this stage of the season – Eddie is also one of Idaho's top NFL prospects after his college career ends this fall. NFL Draft Scout currently ranks Eddie as the #15 fullback in the nation out of 66 athletes being watched for the '09 Draft. Recently NFLdraftscout.com reported that, "The versatile senior played several positions for the Vandals last season, and coaches are hoping he can focus on fullback and H-back this season."
If he can, then that can only mean that Idaho's young receiving crew is stepping up, which will bode well for the entire Vandal team.
Below is our brief chat with Eddie following the Spring Game.
Eddie Williams during fall camp last season.
PAT HAUGE: How would you rate the performance of the tightends and H-Backs throughout spring and during the Spring Game?
EDDIE WILLIAMS: "Well, as a unit we did amazing. Kevin Small played amazing. He's another H-back [Eddie Williams and Kevin are Idaho's top two H-Backs] and Peter Bjorvik, you know, was great in pass protection; he and Rick Harrison. Jim Reuber, he's been playing amazing so far. He's come a long way since last season. It's incredible to see his development. I'm playing all right too."
Eddie at the Spring Game post-game conference.
EW: "Well, I want to win a WAC championship just like the rest of my teammates. That's our main goal. After that we just want to get to a bowl game. We want to give the Vandal fans some victories. That's our main goal."
PH: Overall do you think the tightend position – the H-back position – is going to be a position of strength for Idaho this fall? Do you think the offense is going to utiliize you guys a lot more?
EW: "The tight ends are THE position of strength on this offense. We have five guys that can play on any team in the WAC."
PH: Thanks a lot Eddie.
EW: "No problem."