Take a Knee: Defensive back Juwaan Williams on excitement for spring game and coaches’ traits

Oregon senior defensive tackle Ricky Havili-Heimuli (90) and Oregon freshman defensive back Juwaan Williams (17) embrace after the Ducks beat the Beavers Friday night.  The No. 13 Oregon Ducks play the Oregon St. Beavers at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore. on Nov. 29, 2013. (Ryan Kang/Emerald)

Oregon senior defensive tackle Ricky Havili-Heimuli (90) and Oregon freshman defensive back Juwaan Williams (17) embrace after the Ducks beat the Beavers Friday night. The No. 13 Oregon Ducks play the Oregon St. Beavers at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore. on Nov. 29, 2013. (Ryan Kang/Emerald)

Posted by Victor Flores on Friday, Apr. 25 at 2:20 pm.

Redshirt freshman safety Juwaan Williams might currently be a backup, but he has a chance to earn some goodwill from coaches if he performs well in the spring game. After Friday’s practice, Williams talked to the Emerald about his excitement for the spring game, his performance in spring practice so far and defensive coaches, John Neal and Don Pellum.

After redshirting last year, what is it like practicing now and knowing you have a chance to play this season?

“It definitely gives you extra motivation. You’ve seen what everyone can do when you redshirted. You’ve seen defenses now. You’ve learned more stepping away from the game and observing everything. Now it’s my time to take what I learned last year and just put it all together this spring. Just see what I can do and take all the momentum I’ve had from doing well being a scout (team player) for the offense in the fall now to coming into my own, playing a backup safety role behind (Erick) Dargan. Just bringing all that into fall.”

Coaches have talked about how big the spring game is for the backups, so how excited are you to play next Saturday and potentially impress them?

“I’m always excited when I can play. It just gives me extra motivation. You have to train harder because you’re going to have longer minutes and you have to be ready for whatever the offense throws at you.”

What’s Dargan like? Is he a mentor to you?

“He’s a great guy. He gives the offense trouble a lot and you talk to him and try to learn from him. It’s hard to do what he does because he knows more than you do, but every day, you have to pick something out that means a lot or that you haven’t known since you’ve been here and just mimic it off of him.”

Describe defensive backs coach John Neal.

“He’s a different type of coach. He’s one of the coaches that cares more about the intangibles that we do — tackling, press coverage, all of that — and he cares about everyone in the DB room right now. He wants to see us be great and see us take those steps to be great. He knows that we’re not going to be great overnight but he’s going to help us in anyway possible to become great.”

How would you grade your spring?

“I’d say like a C-plus. Still working the kinks out, gotta do a little bit more here and there, but as a whole, C-plus. Almost a B-minus. I’ve gotta see through Monday and Wednesday’s practices how I do.”

Which kinks do you need to work out the most?

“Communication and breathing. Coach Neal’s told me he knows I’m a smart guy, but when it comes to out there, I don’t breathe as well as I should, so I mess up sometimes.”

By breathing, do you mean taking more deep breaths to calm down?

“Yeah, taking deep breaths, bringing it all in and just seeing what’s around me.”

What do you like most about defensive coordinator Don Pellum?

“His attitude. His attitude every day is to get better than yesterday. If it’s a Monday, if it’s a Tuesday, he wants to get better than the previous day. He brings a lot of energy to the defense, especially in the meeting rooms. He wants everybody, just like Coach Neal, to be great and he’s going to take small steps to be great and he just wants the whole defense to communicate on one cord. We’re moving forward to that raw communication on and off the field and he just wants everybody to play their best, play fast and play physical.”

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