Before the season, that question likely would have been met with a resounding “Who?” by many college football fans -- and likely by Heisman voters. But after consecutive weeks of record-setting performances, during which the 6-foot, 227-pound senior piled up more yards (634) than he’d ever had in a single season (584 in nine games in 2012), that “Who?” may have transformed into a “Hmmm …”
Asked if Williams should be in the Heisman running, Boston College coach Steve Addazio didn’t hesitate.
Andre Williams takes a bow after an announcement that he broke BC's rushing record for a season. His 339-yard game Saturday pushed his season total to 1,810 with two games to play.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I think that any time you have a dominant football player that is all about the right things and stands for what’s right in college football, then that’s what that award represents. There are some tremendously worthy candidates out there, but why not Andre?”
Why not, indeed.
The senior from Schnecksville, Pa., is leading the nation in many key rushing categories, including attempts (288, 39 more than Washington’s Bishop Sankey), yards (1,810, 371 more than Colorado State’s Kapri Bibbs), attempts per game (28.8, 1.9 more than Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey), yards per game (181.0, 30.67 more than Carey), rushing plays of 20-plus yards (20, three more than Sankey) and rushing plays of 30-plus yards (13, four more than Indiana’s Tevin Coleman).
He’s rushed for the most yards in a game in the FBS this season (339 on Saturday vs. NC State), and set BC and ACC records for most yards in a game and in a season (1,810). He’s also tied school records with five rushing TDs in a game (tied with Montel Harris) and 42 carries in a game (tying his own record).
On Sunday, he was named the Walter Camp Foundation national offensive player of the week. He’s just the fourth Eagles player to receive that honor, and the first since Harris in 2009.
“He’s just been a very unselfish guy, a very team guy,” Addazio said. “He’s a humble, humble person who’s worked really hard and he’s very grateful. He’s grateful for the system that we’re in that allows his talent to come out. He’s grateful for the offensive line that he has and the tight ends that really do a fabulous job.”
Williams is universally liked by his teammates, which was clear when they celebrated with him with a few minutes to go Saturday when he was recognized on the JumboTron for setting the school's season rushing record and stepped onto the field to take a bow.
Right tackle Ian White, still in full pads in the postgame media session, said Williams should definitely be in Heisman consideration.
“He’s my running back, he’s setting records, he’s consistent every single game,” White said. “I don’t know how you can’t put him on a list.”
With two games left in the regular season and the Eagles bowl eligible, Williams will have more chances to pad his stats and impress voters. He needs 190 yards to become the first back to break 2,000 yards in a season since UConn’s Donald Brown in 2008 (2,083).
After 10 games in 2013, Williams has 3,387 career yards, fifth all time in BC history. He’s 348 yards behind Harris’ record of 3,735.
If he hits his season average against Maryland and Syracuse, Williams will become BC's all-time leader in rushing yards.
“Let me tell you something, this kid is a tank when he runs,” left tackle Matt Patchan said. “I love it. To be on the field and blocking somebody and then look up, and he’s still chugging along. He’s just a beast. I love it.”
While raw production is important in determining the Heisman winner, there are other factors. Players need exposure, meaning they have to succeed on the big stages in front of large audiences.
Williams had 149 yards in a loss to current No. 2 Florida State in late September, and had 166 yards and two touchdowns in an upset win over Virginia Tech. But he struggled to produce on the road against USC and Clemson, the only times this season he’s been held to fewer than 100 yards.
And players also need to have a compelling narrative, often tied to team success. Williams has that to some degree, finally staying healthy and helping resurrect the Eagles after consecutive finishes of 4-8 and 2-10 led to the firing of former coach Frank Spaziani.
Maybe, or maybe not. For now, he’s still trying to wrap his mind around the fact this is even being discussed.
“It’s still crazy that those type of things are happening for me this year,” Williams said of being one of 10 Doak Walker Award semifinalists and hearing his name bandied about in relation to the Heisman. “Really my main goal coming into the season was just hit 1,000 yards and get enough wins to go to a bowl in my last year. It’s awesome that all those awards and accomplishments are being thrown around.”
Then the hard-working Williams, who came to the postgame media session in a black T-shirt fittingly emblazoned with a silver barbell behind the BC logo, relayed something running backs coach Al Washington told him.
“He said that accomplishments are a derivative to success because success is really about winning games,” Williams said. “And as long we keep having success, as long as we keep winning, I know the accomplishments, they’re going to come.”
The talk has certainly started, and with more games like he’s had the past two weeks the hardware may not be far behind.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.