NORMAN — A light switch went off for Daryl Williams sometime after the Sugar Bowl.
It wasn’t that Oklahoma’s starting right tackle wasn’t good last year. He was.
It wasn’t that he failed to be a leader on the offensive line last year. He was that, too.
But with Gabe Ikard departing, Williams understood his role needed to expand.
“Since Gabe left, of course I have to step in,” he said. “I’m a guy that leads by example. With Gabe leaving I have to lead by example and vocally. It’s a change, but I can do it for my team. If that’s what my coaches want and what my teammates want, that’s what I’m gonna do.”
Sooners offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh is effusive in his praise for Williams.
“It’s the best spring I’ve ever seen from an offensive lineman,” Bedenbaugh said. “The way he practiced, the way he played, the way he went through every week — just assignment, technique, fundamentals. The guy doesn’t make mistakes.”
After the spring, Williams and Bedenbaugh met and Williams laid out his goals for the season.
Big 12 championship. National championship. First-team All-Big 12. Outland Trophy Award winner. First-round draft pick.
“Those are my expectations,” Williams said.
Bedenbaugh was encouraged.
“He’s got high expectations, which I really like,” Bedenbaugh said. “Some guys, you kind of want to temper their goals and their expectations, but his are legitimate, reachable goals.”
Those goals have motivated Williams.
“I feel fresh. I feel in shape. I feel the best I’ve been since I’ve been here,” Williams said. “This is my last year. I’ve got to go off and be great for my team and hopefully for my future career.”
Over the summer, Williams was one of the players who took over the summer conditioning program.
Director of sports enhancement, Jerry Schmidt, allowed some of the team’s leaders — most notably Williams and quarterback Trevor Knight — to help grade the performances of his peers.
Williams took it hard when teammates slacked off.
“Your good leaders, like Daryl Williams, would be completely mad — like there was going to be a fist fight — when guys miss a time or miss a spring or something like that. That’s how important it was to them,” Schmidt said. “It was amazing.”
His teammates noticed the difference.
“The little things really matter to him,” lineman Josiah St. John said. “The best way we learned from him is by example. When you look over at him and he’s running, you better keep up with him because that’s the standard. He does things right, and that’s really important.”