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UNLV running back Charles Williams powering through first offseason

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Special to the Sun/Richard Brian

UNLV quarterback Armani Rogers, left, hands the ball to running back Charles Williams on April 1, 2017, during UNLVs spring showcase scrimmage game. Photo by Richard Brian.

Fri, Jul 14, 2017 (2 a.m.)

Charles Williams may have set a school freshman rushing record last year, when he led UNLV with 763 yards, but his sensational performance didn’t translate to the win column, as the Rebels posted a disappointing 4-8 record.

Now, after a full offseason in the Rebels’ strength program, the 5-foot-9 thunderball is determined to pick up the tough yards necessary to finish games and help lead UNLV to a turnaround campaign.

“I’m just working on my body and getting in better shape than I was last year,” Williams said after serving as a counselor at the Las Vegas Bowl Youth Football Camp on Thursday. “I’m coming in faster and stronger and more mentally prepared for the game. No more freshman mistakes for me.”

Williams quickly asserted himself as the Rebels’ most consistent running back last season, but despite his production he averaged just 11.8 carries per game. The light workload was partly due to his small stature and partly due to UNLV’s backfield-by-committee approach.

The Rebels still figure to have a stable full of talented runners this season, but Williams believes adding more power to his game will make him a better workhorse and a more reliable option late in games.

He’s spent the spring and summer months focusing on improving his core strength and agility. On Thursday he looked lean and noticeably more muscular while leading the kids through their drills at Rebel Park.

“I feel like I have more body control,” Williams said. “I feel like I have more strength in my upper body than last year. My lower body is getting better, but I’m still working on that.”

Williams posted 5.4 yards per carry last year and ran for three touchdowns. If he shows a stronger running style this season, coach Tony Sanchez may feel more comfortable giving Williams more chances around the goal line and in late-game situations.

“With Charles, that’s the biggest thing — being a strong runner all the way through, being able to finish games and being a more physical guy, especially in pass protection,” Sanchez said. “And he’s done that. He’s stronger, he’s put some weight on. He was a little stiff last year and needed to become more flexible, and he’s gotten much better in that department. I think the work he’s put in throughout the summer is going to pay off.”

The L Word

There weren’t a lot of free football camps available to Williams when he was growing up in the Fresno, Calif. area, so he enjoyed coaching the 500 kids who came out to Rebel Park on Thursday for the Las Vegas Bowl youth camp.

“I see a lot of talent out here today,” Williams said. “A lot of little kids with a lot of passion for the sport of football today. It was pretty good having the kids out here and seeing them do what they can do and just motivating them to become the best they can be in the future.”

As a kid himself, Williams was particularly fond of the “L drill,” an agility test that hones lateral quickness. Also known as the “three-cone drill,” it’s a key exercise at all levels of the game, from Pop Warner to the NFL combine.

On Thursday, UNLV players and coaches served as counselors as the 7-to-13 year-olds took turns going through running, tackling, throwing and receiving exercises. Prominent among the stations was the L drill.

“The L drill is so basic, but it shows a lot,” Williams said. “It shows how quick you are and how agile you are. It’s basic stuff that you think would be easy, but it makes you better. Seeing these kids doing it today, it was making me want to try it.”

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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