LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — After Texas Tech's Holiday Bowl win, the Red Raiders' leading rusher approached coach Kliff Kingsbury to ask if he could switch positions.
Kenny Williams saw how depleted the Red Raiders were going to be at linebacker this season, so he offered to help out by heading to the other side.
Now, after leading Texas Tech in rushing the past two years, the 5-foot-11, 228-pound senior is set to start at outside linebacker when the Red Raiders host Central Arkansas on Saturday.
"Linebacker is just like the mirror position to running back, so a lot of that (experience) comes in handy," Williams said. "In certain situations I can kind of process what the running back is doing. It's really been working for me."
Williams will be taking over the position from Terrence Bullitt, who had two sacks and 37 tackles last season. Williams, who had 497 yards rushing and eight touchdowns, also played on special teams. He had 14 tackles in that role and will probably again be in on kickoffs, punt blocks and kick returns.
Williams was a triple-threat on offense last season. In addition to his running back role, he caught one touchdown pass and threw for two others.
Kingsbury's seen improvement on defense from Williams and expects that to continue. He also isn't ruling out bringing Williams in on offense occasionally.
"There are certain things he does really well offensively, so we may plug him in any given moment," the second-year coach said. "We'll see how the season's going."
Williams is no stranger at linebacker. His began there at the start of his junior year at Hendrickson High in Pflugerville, Texas. Since then, though, he's been a running back. Williams wants to play some on offense — and he smiled wryly when asked about slipping in on offense.
"I have to have that click, that quick switch when they call me over to the offensive side of the ball," he said.
Matt Wallerstedt, the first Red Raiders defensive coordinator since 2009 to stay longer than a year, sees a great athlete in Williams.
"He's a compact, powerful kid that plays with a lot of energy and a lot of effort," Wallerstedt said. "You can't take enough of those guys. He's going to be a force to reckon with on the perimeter."
Williams doesn't downplay that the switch to linebacker came with challenges. Learning the schemes and understanding the terminology was difficult, but he said those have come together after spring and fall workouts. He enjoys his time on special teams, too.
"From an early age I learned that special teams are a key part of the game," he said. "That's how you have to treat it. Special teams can either lose or win games, and I've always taken pride in that."
Wallerstedt believes Williams' skills will give him a better shot at playing in the NFL.
"They're going to see how versatile he is, and they'll see how well he does on special teams," he said. "A guy like that can have a lot of different roles with a lot of different teams with his speed. I think he could play in the league for a while."
On a defense that lost several key players (Kerry Hyder, Dartwan Bush and Will Smith), Williams wants to be a leader for some of the younger players.
"A lot of guys look up to me," he said. "If the guys look up to you, knowing that they're looking up to you, you want to go all out."