SAN JOSE, Calif. — Jamaal Williams is the kind of person people like to teach.
He’s the pupil a teacher loves to have in the classroom, the employee a boss loves to have in the workplace, and the player a coach loves to have on the practice field.
Because he gets the big picture, takes what he gets and does it.
Ever hire somebody who simply didn’t listen, tuned everyone out and did it their way? Ever work with a guy who embraced victimhood, was an excuse magnet, came in late, left early, then thought he deserved a raise?
Well, Williams, BYU's 17-year-old running back, is the antithesis of all those kinds of people. He’s humble as a country preacher. All he wants is to work hard and get better.
Williams returns to his home state of California this weekend when BYU plays San Jose State (8:30 pm MT) on Saturday. He’s also a player garnering a lot of attention from defenders and the media.
BYU’s second-year running backs coach Joe DuPaix has the task of coaching Williams, the freshman from Fontana, Calif.
Did I say task?
“Oh, man, it’s a blast,” said DuPaix of his job to introduce Williams to Division I football.
“Jamaal is just a great young man,” said the coach.
“He soaks it all in. He listens very intently then goes out and executes it. For some people it takes a lot of time to execute what a coach asks you to do. For Jamaal, he takes what is given and goes right out on the field and performs.”
To date, Williams has carried the ball 117 times for 620 yards for 10 touchdowns. He has also caught 21 passes for 230 yards and a score. His best effort came in a blowout win over Hawaii in Provo in which he gained 155 yards. He managed 64 yards against Notre Dame’s top 10 defense.
“It is very pleasing to see him excel in that aspect of football,” said DuPaix. “It is one thing to play football but another thing to mentally play it with great confidence. His knowledge of the game is right, but to do it at a high level is sweet.
“He’s got a long way to go, and he knows that, but it’s really fun to coach a player who wants to get better and see the improvements he is making.”
DuPaix, Williams and BYU’s offense will have a challenge against San Jose State, an 8-2 team in the Western Athletic Conference. In a league where SJSU, Louisiana Tech and Utah State are tops, the Spartans are fully respected.
DuPaix knows BYU will have its hands full.
“They are a very hard-playing football team,” said DuPaix.
SJSU’s defensive coordinator is Kent Baer, a former Utah State linebacker who has coached defense at Utah State, Arizona State, Washington, Notre Dame, Stanford and Cal.
Everywhere Baer has coached, he’s created tough-nosed defenses, many of which have been ranked among the top-10 defenses in the country, especially against the run.
“They try hard on every play and that really sticks out to me,” said DuPaix. “They are a very sound football defense with very good players who are going to compete down-in and down-out. This is a very good team — well-coached and they are hungry.”
This week’s picks:
Washington 35, Colorado 10: The Huskies would get a better challenge going against San Jose State.
Arizona State 28, Washington State 21: Mike Leach may or may not be abusing players, but this weekend he’s got to avoid abuse from the Sun Devils.
USC 28, UCLA 24: The Bruins are definitely back to being a force in the Pac-12 and this is a perfect game to frame just how far UCLA has come.
Oregon 48, Stanford 14: Let the track meet begin. Gentlemen, start your Nikes.
Oregon State 28, California 10: Could we see a coaching change with the Bears? Stay tuned.
Louisiana Tech 42, Utah State 38: Love the Aggies, but they’ll need more firepower to keep this tennis match from getting out of hand.
Arizona 34, Utah 27: The great question: which will surface as the biggest factor, Utah’s benefit from a great home crowd or Arizona’s explosive offense? Neither the Utes nor Wildcats have won on the road in the Pac-12.
BYU 17, San Jose State 14: We’ll find out very quickly if SJSU’s passing attack can do what Oregon State did to BYU — if that OSU game was a pass-defense fluke. We'll also find out whether BYU’s secondary misses safety Joe Sampson enough for it to matter.
Last week 6-1; overall 53-19 (.736)
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at email@example.com.