With every electric Dee Williams punt return, the noise grows a little louder — why isn’t this guy playing on offense? It’s a question that’s been posed to Josh Heupel before, and after another strong showing with the ball in his hands on Saturday night, the question has been asked once again.
And then there’s this. Williams posted a picture with Squirrel White with the caption “almost time.” Could that mean offensive snaps are on the way for the star returner? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions there.
Vols Returner Dee Williams had this to share on his Instagram Story— Vol Scoops (@VolScoops) October 3, 2023
Could we see some Offensive appearances for the Speedster? pic.twitter.com/yntwsnZ6Lt
Williams has been working at cornerback since arriving at Tennessee, but his primary impact has come in the return game. His big production caught the eye of South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer ahead of last week’s game.
“Punt returner averages 21 yards per return,” Beamer said. “Not a long of 21, he averages 21 yards per return this season. He can make people look silly really, really quick. So we’ve got to do a great job covering punts this week when we punt.”
Williams housed another one on Saturday, only to see it called back due to a penalty. That touchdown brought up the question again — why isn’t Dee Williams playing offense? Josh Heupel answered the question again this week.
“Dee is special, man,” Heupel told the Knoxville Quarterback Club. “There’s a lot of pieces that go into being able to play within our offense and the structure and the tempo of it. He is a special playmaker. We’ve got to continue to find ways to help him make a difference in the football game.”
That’s a bit of a different answer than Heupel offered just one month ago following the win over Virginia.
“Dee is special with the ball in his hands,” Heupel said last month. “But he’s going to continue to work at the corner spot and obviously be heavily active in our return game.”
So Heupel didn’t totally shoot the idea down like he has in the past. That, along with the picture Williams posted... maybe there’s a chance?
It’s worth noting that Tennessee did just lose Bru McCoy to a season-ending injury. The Volunteers aren’t exactly lacking depth at receiver, but they could use a little more juice on that side of the ball. Getting Williams involved similarly to how they used Squirrel White last week against South Carolina makes plenty of sense. Just get the ball in his hands and let him go to work.
Tennessee has a bye week here to sort some things out and get healthy. Perhaps that includes getting Williams involved on the other side of the ball. We’ll see.