BOZEMAN — Amandre Williams joined the Montana State football program for one reason: To make plays on defense.
A junior transfer from the University of Washington, Williams says he’s still in learning mode as MSU continues to pick its way through spring football drills and fine-tune its schemes under new defensive coordinator Kane Ioane.
But the 6-foot-2, 225-pound edge defender has his goals in place, which includes helping the Bobcats rise to another level on the defensive side of the ball.
“That’s why I wanted to come here, to get after the quarterback,” Williams said during a recent interview.
“It’s not really my thought process to go out and say I want this many sacks or this many tackles for loss. I just want to put my team in the best possible position to win games. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to do my job. Of course I would love to have success, but individual success isn’t as important to me as team success.”
Williams, who will wear jersey No. 89, is following in the footsteps of another Washington transfer, Bobcats rush end Bryce Sterk.
Sterk dropped down to Montana State before last season and proved to be a terror as a rush end, racking up 8½ sacks and 17 tackles for loss, both of which ranked second in the Big Sky Conference. And he unmistakably made key plays at key moments.
Bobcats coach Jeff Choate has high hopes for Williams, just as he did for Sterk, who will be a senior in 2019.
Can lightning strike twice?
“They’re different players. Amandre is probably more versatile than Bryce,” explained Choate, who is entering his fourth season as coach at MSU. “I think Bryce can do some things; he’s a very good pass-rusher on the edge. He was a very timely player for us.
“He will be pushed — all the time — by Amandre. Amandre can do a lot of things. He’s just a tremendous football player. I think he maybe got lost in the shuffle a little bit at (Washington) because he was one of these guys who’s a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. And when we were talking about him coming here, I’m like, ‘OK, this is what we’re going to let you do. Let’s go do it.’
“Now, (he’s) going to do this, this and this for us maybe in the kicking game or other places. You’ll see, he will have a role in our offense. Amandre will. And so I think it will be fun to watch him. Clearly, if he has the type of impact that Bryce did a year ago, we should be better on third down.”
MSU ranked fourth in the Big Sky in total defense last year but struggled to get off the field consistently on third down as opponents moved the chains nearly 42 percent of the time in those situations.
“Everything’s very detailed,” Williams said. “The coaches are very detailed in what they do and the players love to play football. It’s cool to be around, and it’s going really well right now.”
Choate originally recruited Williams to Washington when Choate was an assistant coach there in 2015. Coming out of Tahoma High School south of Seattle in Maple Valley, Washington, Williams was a bit of an anomaly.
He was an all-league quarterback, throwing for more than 3,200 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior, but he also starred on the defensive line, and the Huskies had him positioned as a defensive end/linebacker hybrid.
Williams made seven tackles in seven games as a sophomore last year, and saw some snaps as a redshirt freshman in 2017. But as time wore on Williams began to look at other options.
“The three years I was at Washington, I loved my teammates and I had a good time. It was just time for me to move on,” he said. “It just wasn’t the right fit anymore.”
“There were different factors,” Williams said. “Obviously everybody wants to play as much as they can, but that can’t be the only factor. There were other things that went into it. A lot of little things.
“I committed to Washington to play for coach Choate and I’ve known him for a long time. And he was the reason why I wanted to come play here. We have a good relationship and that relationship is going to continue to build, but he’s a great guy and I love the dude and I love playing for him.”
Williams describes himself as a physical player with a high football IQ who pays close attention to the technical aspects of his game.
And he says he’s familiar with the defense the Bobcats are implementing because it’s virtually the same as what they’ve done in recent years at Washington, which is where Ioane spent the past two seasons as a quality control analyst for coach Chris Petersen.
Ioane, a former standout athlete at Billings Skyview and a member of the Montana State hall of fame from his days as an All-America safety, is putting his own stamp on that blueprint as the Bobcats look to grow from an eight-win playoff season in 2018.
“He’s taking it by storm right now,” Williams said of Ioane. “We had a good relationship at Washington, so I did know him there. He’s a calm, collected guy, so it’s a little different, that coaching style. But he has high standards for the defense.
“I’m excited to play for him and the guys are excited to play for him. He’s very detailed like every coach is here.”
Williams added: “Expectations raise every year, especially when you make the playoffs. Every year you want to build from the season before, and I know coming in here that their standards are set pretty high right now. We’re going to go out and meet those standards.”