HUNTINGTON — After Marshall’s Monday morning practice, Ricardo Williams held a “trophy” in his hand: a clump of hair.
His own. A dreadlock, as it turns out.
“I got a dread pulled out today,” the junior said. “[Football is] a tough sport. It’s fine, though. I’m going to adapt to it, find a way to avoid it.”
He couldn’t avoid the play that cost his dreadlock. He blew through a gap cleanly and had a lane to the quarterback, but reserve guard Trevor Mendelson grasped him at about the bottom rim of the helmet.
Ouch. The thought of that hurts right down to the follicles.
“That’s what I like about the inside — you can go ‘A’ or ‘B’ [gap],” Williams said. “I got off the ball, I saw [Mendelson] jump [outside] and I came back in, and he had to hold me and stuff like that. I’ve got to tuck my dreads in, because they like pulling my dreads for some reason.”
Williams may be able to avoid further hair damage, but he can’t avoid his being underweight for a tackle. The former end checks in at 6-foot-5, 244 pounds on the roster sheet, and that’s pretty accurate.
“He’s too light,” said J.C. Price, coach of the defensive tackles. “He’s been as high as 255, he’s lost some weight during camp. We’ve got to get him back to high 50s, 60s, where he was in the spring. It’s so hot right now for those guys; I think he’ll get it back once we get into game week and he starts eating more.”
So why is the Homestead, Fla., product and transfer from University of Miami playing inside in the first place? He came as a well-touted end, after all.
He was moved in the spring, but the seeds may have been planted last fall.
“Last year I had to play on the scout team and I was playing D-tackle the whole season,” he said. “I guess the coaches saw something they liked. When spring came, coach told me he wanted to try me inside, and I guess I’m doing good because they kept me inside. It doesn’t bother me, though.”
Williams is considered a second-stringer right now, playing alongside and/or behind Steve Dillon and Jarquez Samuel, or alongside Malcolm Strong. Tomell One, a 6-3, 270-pound freshman, also is in the mix.
The tackles are taking more first-string snaps in camp because James Rouse’s action is limited by coach’s decision. Rouse, nicknamed “Unk” or “Uncle,” is the sixth-year player who was picked as preseason defensive player of the year by Conference USA coaches.
Price’s analysis on Williams: “The great thing he does is play with great leverage. He understands pad leverage, he has really flexible hips. He just brings a different style than a Rouse.”
n There was a wind in his back and he was using a kicking stand, but Kaare Vedvik hit some long field goals before practice. First, he hit a 60-yarder with plenty to spare, then he backed up and hit one from 65.
Still, he’s not consistent enough to join the contest between incumbent field-goal kicker Justin Haig and Nick Smith, who continue to match successful 3-pointers.
Kickoff specialist Amareto Curraj has been kicking after an unspecified injury, said MU coach Doc Holliday, but coaches are making certain he doesn’t kick too much.
n Coaches are trying to find the perfect spot for Jerome Dews, the freshman who originally was headed to Tennessee. His role Monday? Defensive end. He started his camp at safety and was moved to linebacker before heading up front.
At 6-2, 190, he would have to put on 30-50 pounds to play end, in all likelihood. He did blow around tackle AJ Addison on one pass rush, though.
n On the Devon Johnson watch: The 243-pound running back romped for what would have been a 40-yard gain if not for quick whistles.
But the real fun came on a pass-blocking drill, where backs had to protect a “quarterback” prop. Johnson not only took on all comers, but stonewalled them — his work on linebacker Neville Hewitt was particularly impressive.
D.J. Hunter was the only rusher to slip past “Rockhead.”
n In personnel news, tackle Clint Van Horn remained out and cornerback Donaldven Manning was exercising on the sidelines. Offensive linemen Tom Collins was injured in the morning session, while sophomore Eric Ansley (back) is expected to return next week when school starts. Collins recently received a scholarship.
Also, linebacker Kent Turene did not practice.
Running back Kevin Rodriguez has returned to the program, taking his No. 35. Assani Mudimbi changed from 35 to 18.
Reach Doug Smock at email@example.com, 304-348-5130 or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.