NORMAN — Not even Damien Williams expected this kind of start to his career at Oklahoma.
“Coming from a junior college to a Division I, and playing all these great teams ... not at all,” Williams said. “I can't just say that's all me. The line is doing great. They're blocking hard and moving guys out of my way. All I've got to do is make a guy miss and keep going.”
The junior-college transfer from Arizona Western has scored on touchdown runs of 65, 89 and 95 yards — the latter two represent two of the longest eight touchdown runs in Oklahoma football history.
In terms of big, home-run plays, Williams' career has gotten off to a hotter start than any Oklahoma back in recent memory, including Adrian Peterson.
“In our program, we've always had really explosive backs, but clearly Damien is special,” said junior center Gabe Ikard. “He's got a great skill set. He's blessed with great vision and ability to play the game.
“It makes it really easy for an offensive line when all you have to do is make a small seam, and he'll see it and accelerate through it.”
Senior Dominique Whaley, who returned from a severe ankle injury suffered last season, entered the season as the Sooners' starting running back. But by the end of Oklahoma's season opener at UTEP, it had become clear that Williams was a special talent capable of big things.
With about three minutes left in the West Texas win, Williams took a handoff, ran to his right and cut upfield. He saw a big hole open up when fullback Trey Millard took out a Miner defender and Williams was off to the races, scoring on a 65-yard run that sealed the OU victory.
The next week, he rushed for 156 yards in OU's home opening win over Florida A&M; it was the most yards ever by an Oklahoma running back in his home debut.
During that game, he scored on an 89-yard run in the third quarter.
Then last weekend, in his first OU-Texas game, Williams burst free for a 95-yard touchdown — the longest run in Red River Rivalry history — that opened the floodgates for the Sooners' 63-21 rout.
“We wouldn't have went and recruited him if we didn't think he'd be a major factor,” coach Bob Stoops said. “So yeah, we figured he'd do well.
“Now, do you know he'd have a 95-yarder? I didn't know the ball would be at the 5. ... You have to credit not just Damien. Guys are getting him space. Receivers are blocking downfield. And Damien's doing special stuff.”
When asked if he's ever experienced a five-game stretch with this many home-run bursts, Williams said he's always had the ability to do it; he just didn't quite expect it to happen like this at the NCAA Division I level.
“I've always been able to break big plays, it's something I'm used to doing,” Williams said. “In junior college, that's what I was known for. I'm just trying to continue what I was doing there.”
At 6-feet, 208 pounds, Williams is also capable of being a rough-and-tumble, bruiser back in short-yardage situations.
In five games, Williams has rushed for 508 yards and six touchdowns. He's averaging 7.7 yards per carry and about 102 yards per game.
Williams has also shown an ability to make plays in the passing game; he reeled in a 38-yard reception at Texas Tech two weeks ago, when he made his first career start at Oklahoma.
“He's faster than people think,” Ikard said. “He's got a lot of diversity to his game, whether it's blocking in pass protection, grinding out yards or showing some acceleration out on the edge.
“It's a pleasure blocking for a guy like that.”