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Kasen Williams looks to put injury behind him, finish UW career strong

Kasen Williams had 29 catches for 421 yards in eight games last year before sustaining a season-ending injury. (AP)

If all had gone according to plan in 2013, Kasen Williams might not be a Washington Husky anymore.

The wide receiver admits that he was considering foregoing his senior season to enter the NFL Draft, but the thought never got too far down the road. In the middle of a strong junior campaign, Williams suffered a broken left fibula and a lisfranc fracture in his foot against Cal, putting him on the shelf for Washington’s final five games.

The NFL would have to wait. Even his usual offseason preparation would have to wait. Add to that the arrival of new coach Chris Petersen, and suddenly the Sammamish native and Skyline High School product was in very unfamiliar territory.

“(It was) completely different from any other offseason that I’ve gone through. New coach, injury,” Williams said after Thursday’s practice. “Now, instead of me focusing on getting right with (former UW quarterback Keith Price), now I gotta focus on getting in the training room and getting my foot right. And as soon as I was able to get out and run some routes, now I gotta focus on, ‘OK, now I have a new quarterback,’ so I gotta focus on … just getting that timing back down again.”

The injury kept Williams out for the entirety of spring practice, and while that may have put him behind the rest of his teammates entering fall camp, he’s already looking pretty close to the player who topped 50 yards receiving in each of the first five games last season. He turned heads with a number of impressive catches Thursday, including one on a deep ball down the sideline that saw him nearly juke a defender out of his shoes to create plenty of separation.

That’s not to say Williams is 100 percent back from his injury, though.

“I can go out there now and I can have a good full practice, but then the next day, that second practice, I’ll kinda feel it towards the end of practice,” he said. “But it’s nothing that I can’t get through.”

Williams is still working on getting his left foot to full strength, something he can only do by being on the field.

“I just need repetition, repetition, repetition, and what that does is strengthen my foot, but it also strengthens my mind and I can stay out there,” he said. “The only time I think about it is when I get a scare, falling on it too hard or something like that. … The whole goal of being out here and the whole point of fall camp is to get as many reps as you can and feel as comfortable as you can to not have those thoughts in your head.”

It’s a gradual process, but one that he feels he is already seeing results from just four days into camp.

“Every single rep I take I feel like I’m getting better,” he said.

Putting his injuries in the rearview mirror aren’t Williams’ only responsibilities this season, though. As the senior member of the wide receiver corps, there’s a lot expected of him by Petersen and his staff.

“I think this coaching staff puts more pressure on the seniors (than the previous staff), and it’s not bad pressure. It’s more of just like we need to take control of this team,” he said. “The last coaching staff, they maybe tried to put the pressure too much on them and not on the players that actually go out and play and take control of their team. It’s a little bit different in that aspect, but I’m glad that’s how it is.”

The pressure isn’t all from the coaches.

“Me being a senior, I felt like it’s time for me to take charge and take control of the wideout group, and now we’ve got new quarterbacks and all that stuff,” Williams said. “The leadership thing definitely sticks out to me and it’s something I need to improve on the most.”