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Logan • Maybe Kerwynn Williams was too small.
Maybe he didn't have the speed or the strength UNLV was looking for when he was a senior at Valley High in Las Vegas. Despite rushing for more than 2,000 yards for Valley, Williams never received a scholarship offer from the Rebels. He almost certainly would have gone if his phone had rung.
"I would've gone anywhere that I could've played," Williams said.
Now a senior at Utah State, Williams will see his hometown team for the first time in his career on Saturday night. In front of a "whiteout" crowd at Romney Stadium, his team toting a 3-1 record, Williams will be USU's starting running back against the Rebels.
Williams was a part of Gary Andersen's first recruiting class. A versatile player who first ran back kicks, then played slot receiver, he has finally settled into his preferred role. His 205-yard running and catching performance last week against Colorado State was a career best. With each yard, Williams reminds of what might have been had he become a Rebel.
"I've thought about what may have happened," Williams said. "But it never turned out that way. I came to Logan to play for coach Andersen. I think it was the best decision I've ever made. I'm very happy with where I am, and I wouldn't change a thing."
Through four games, Williams is doing his best Robert Turbin impression in a different way. He's rushed for 406 yards and three touchdowns. He averages 5.9 yards per carry. While Turbin was power and strength, Williams makes you miss. Where Turbin can run over defenders, Williams runs away from them.
He's been a consistent presence in the backfield for quarterback Chuckie Keeton. Despite his elusive style, Williams also has shown the ability to churn out the tough yard as well as the breakaways. In his first season as a starter, Williams has delivered.
"He's a special player and a special young man," Andersen said. "I remember how he ran away from Auburn last year. That's an SEC defense that can run, and nobody could catch him from behind. He's been an unbelievable competitor throughout his career. He carries himself like a leader. Every year, he's come back bigger and stronger. He's just a fantastic young man and a great football player."
The Aggies are looking for their first 4-1 start since 1978. And in UNLV, they are playing a team on its first road trip of the season. The Rebels come in with an explosive offense and a suspect defense. Andersen knows his secondary will be tested.
"They beat Air Force last week, and that was a big win for them," Andersen said. "They played well and scored points when they had to. They are gap sound, and they have some very good players. This is going to be a challenge."
UNLV at Utah State
P At Romney Stadium (Logan)
Kickoff • Saturday, 6 p.m.
Internet • ESPN3.com
Radio • 97.5 FM
Series history • Utah State leads 12-7
Last meeting • UNLV 27, Utah State 17 (Aug. 30, 2008)
About the Rebels • This will be the first road game of the season for UNLV. … The Rebels are coming off a win over Air Force last week. … UNLV assistant Kraig Paulson coached at Utah State for three seasons. … The Rebels have lost the last two games of the series.
About the Aggies • Running backs coach Mike Sanford is a former head coach at UNLV. … Quarterback Chuckie Keeton has thrown for seven touchdowns and three interceptions on the season. … The win last week over CSU was Utah State's first nonconference road win since 2004. … This is the first home game for the Aggies in three weeks.