- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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OU linebacker Corey Nelson supplies a glimpse of the task at hand.
"He's a very powerful dude, very explosive back," said Nelson, a junior who had to face Williams during fall practice. "You have to move your feet, you gotta bring him down with attitude, because when he runs, he runs with attitude and with a lot of want-to.
"You have to come back with that same intensity. If not, you're going to get run over."
Those attributes could make Williams a key contributor in a Sooners offense that already features Dominique Whaley, one of college football's breakout stars in 2011, and Brennan Clay, who brings consistency and versatility to the backfield.
Williams burst onto the scene in OU's 24-7 win over UTEP on Sept. 1, securing the victory with a 65-yard run in the final minutes. The junior college transfer led the Sooners with nine carries for 104 yards and one touchdown.
"Damien played great," OU head coach Bob Stoops said. "He's where he's supposed to be in his assignments and picking up blitzes, he really did well with that, and that was great to see. Then it was obvious how well he ran with the football."
Said Williams: "I felt like I ran hard, took care of the ball and when it opened, I showed I can get the long one also."
A stellar debut by all accounts. Teammates and coaches had been praising the power of Williams during fall camp, but the junior took it to another level in his first game in crimson and cream.
"Everything I thought he would be and more," guard Adam Shead said. "He adds a power dimension to our offense."
That could be a key for the Sooners' running attack during this season. Williams complements Whaley and Clay as a straight-line back who attacks the line of scrimmage with a physical mindset. His combination of speed, size and physical running could make him a consistent component of OU's game plans each week.
Asked what role he envisions for himself, Williams said he could see embracing a short-yardage role.
"I can see myself getting the hard yards," Williams said. "(On) fourth-and-1, third-and-2, when it counts, I hope coach looks at me and says, 'Can you get it?' and I'll say 'Yeah.' "
It's a role that Williams could play alongside Whaley and Clay, allowing those two running backs to play to their strengths and limit the overall pounding on all three running backs.
"He's played strong," offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said of Williams. "He's taking care of the ball. He's a physical runner. He has some patience as a zone runner.
"He's gonna have a big year for us. He needs to have a big year for us."
And if he continues to display the explosiveness he showed on the 65-yard run, his role could expand even more. The speed he showed as he outraced a defensive back to the end zone was a bit of a surprise.
"I don't want to say I was surprised, but I didn't know it was going to be like that," Shead said.
Said Williams: "Everybody came back like, 'I didn't know you had that in you.' I was like, 'Yeah, there's more to come.' "
Sooners fans sure hope so.
3hEthan Sherwood Strauss