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Army fullback A.J. Williams impresses in spring

A.J. Williams kept churning his legs near the goal line as the clock ticked down in Army’s Black and Gold game.

Williams wouldn’t be denied, ducking into a gap and stretching the ball into the end zone. He rose out of the pile and celebrated the winning touchdown with 13 seconds left as his teammates circled him.

The junior fullback experienced a full-circle moment this spring returning to the position that he was recruited to play for Army.

“In high school, I looked up to the guys (Army fullbacks) like Darnell Woolfolk, Connor Slomka and Sandon McCoy,” Williams said. “Just looking up to those guys and trying to continue that legacy is what I really look forward to.”

Williams is one of the formerly recruited fullbacks that took advantage of Army’s move from last season’s shotgun-based offense to more under-center attack this fall. He and junior Jarel Dickson switched back to fullback (B-back) this spring. Freshmen Kanye Udoh and Jake Rendina round out the Black Knights’ top fullback stable

“I embraced it,” Williams said. “I knew I was a (rising) senior of that group and I rook responsibility to try and help lead those guys. Over the years since I’ve been here coach (Jeff) Monken has been preaching to overexaggerate the fundamentals and I think when you have that set foundation, it’s really easy to get back in the groove of things (at fullback).” 

One year ago, Williams’ spot on the team was uncertain with the switch to the shotgun. Monken said he “wasn’t sure if (Williams) was ever really be able to contribute to the team,” at the end of last spring. The coaching staff first moved Williams to linebacker in the fall and then to H-back or “cruiser” behind returning tight ends Josh Lingenfelter and David Crossan. Williams appeared in games against Delaware State and UMass.

“He (Williams) did some really good things in (2023) preseason camp at that position but he was competing with guys like Crossan and Lingenfelter,” Monken said. “It was just going to be hard to beat those guys out because that’s what they do for a living. But we kept him around so he got his opportunity to get in that position and get into a groove.”

Williams believes his time at tight end or H-back last season and his history as a fullback has made him an improved player this spring. He said he’s been able to stay around 235 pounds, his same playing weight at tight end.

“I really think playing as a B-back for all those years and playing tight end help me play better without the ball,” Williams said.

Williams started Army’s final scrimmage scoring drive with a 21-yard run. But, Monken said it’s the intangibles that have stood out for Williams this spring.

“He’s had a good spring not just running the football, doing the other things too,” Monken said. “I’m happy for him. He’s a great kid. He cares so much about this team. He gained some tough yards on that drive before he scored the touchdown…I’m proud his perseverance.”

For Williams, Army’s under-center return has opened up opportunity but he truly thinks this scheme can be successful as it was prior to last season’s shotgun-based experiment.

“One thing we preach about is toughness and I believe that with the offense (being) downhill and hitting you in the mouth that really shows our toughness,” Williams said. “I think we can use that to our advantage this season.”


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