NCF Nation: Antonio James
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Juice Williams enters 2009 as one of the Big Ten's most recognizable players, a proven quarterback in a league starved for them.
|Chuck Rydlewski/Icon SMI|
|Juice Williams was a second-team All-Big Ten selection last fall.|
Williams has experienced just about everything at Illinois: A 10-loss season as a raw, yet talented freshman, a thrilling Rose Bowl run as a sophomore and a very disappointing campaign as a junior last fall. Illinois led the Big Ten in passing and ranked second in total offense but struggled to a 5-7 finish. Williams, a second-team All-Big Ten selection last fall, wants to end his college career on a good note, and perhaps for the first time he has truly taken ownership of the team.
Earlier this week, Williams discussed his up-and-down 2008 season, his outlook for the future and his legacy at Illinois.
What's been the mood for you and the guys during offseason workouts after things didn't go the way you wanted them to last fall?
Juice Williams: The attitude of this year's team is completely different from what we had last year at this time. Obviously, we didn't end up the way we should have or what we thought we should have. But that's affected this team in such a positive way. [The struggles] may be one of the best things to happen to this team.
Guys now are realizing that if we don't come to play every week, we're not going to be successful. And in order to come out there and play like that, we have to train and prepare our bodies to play 12 games to the maximum potential. Guys have really taken on that role, and I think we'll be ready by the time the season comes around.
Do you think guys were taking things for granted a little bit last year, especially coming off a Rose Bowl run?
JW: I think it had some type of affect on it. Guys kind of slacked off a little bit. We didn't really have the same intensity in the offseason as we should have. But like I said, I think it was probably the best thing that happened to us, not going to a bowl game. Us bringing back so many seniors and so much experience for this year, it's going to really prepare this team in the right direction.