Who’s got next? UW wide receiver Kasen Williams

The Herald is ringing in the new year with an eight-part series entitled “Who’s got next?” The series is an attempt to identify athletes on eight local teams who may not be stars just yet but who appear poised to shine brightly in 2012 and beyond.

Kasen Williams tried not to have any expectations as he entered his first season of college football at the University of Washington. There were plenty of them already out there without the 2010 Parade Magazine High School Player of the Year chiming in.

After a rather subdued freshman season that saw Williams save his finest moments for the season-ending Apple Cup, the 6-foot-2 wide receiver with the NFL physique isn’t holding back anymore.

“I have goals for myself,” he said earlier this month. “I want to be one of the greatest to come out of here, and I want to be one of the greatest in the country. That’s not going to come easy. It’s going to take a lot of hard work — and work that I’m willing to put in.”

After spending much of training camp wowing onlookers with a daily catch that seemed to defy logic — if not physics — the eight-time state champion (twice in the triple jump, twice in the high jump, once in the long jump and three times as a member of the Skyline football team) was virtually a non-factor on a senior-laden UW receiving corps through the first half of the 2011 football season. But he started to become an offensive weapon in mid-October and stole the show in the first half of the Apple Cup, with two touchdown receptions and a gravity-defying leap over Washington State cornerback Nolan Washington that will go down as the game’s most memorable highlight.

Afterward, Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said the best may be yet to come.

“That’s not the last of Kasen Williams, for sure,” Sarkisian said. “I think we’re going to get used to seeing plays like that from Kasen Williams.”

If Williams has his way, the excitement surrounding him this time next year won’t just be within the borders of Husky Nation. Maybe the fabulous freshman can become an even more sensational sophomore.

“I feel like I haven’t really adapted to the game fully — the change from high school to college,” Williams said. “I think I can get a lot faster and get a lot better.

“But there’s nothing I can really predict for the future. I’m going to get opportunities, and I’m going to try to take advantage of every single one.”

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