Jordan Williams came to the Cal Poly football team with little fanfare.
The former Tracy High standout was not among the 12 high school recruits to commit to the Mustangs on signing day in 2010.
Many in that class — Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh’s first with the benefit of recruiting the entire year — have developed into key contributors.
Players like linebacker and leading tackler Nick Dzubnar, four-year starting guard Lefi Letuligasenoa, fullback Brandon Howe, defensive tackle Chris Lawrence and cornerback Vante Smith-Johnson have all turned into starters.
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Safety Dave Douglas came in as with high expectations, but it’s Williams who has developed into one of the most dependable defensive backs on the team in the seasons since.
It’s less of a surprise considering Williams receiving tutelage from dad Reggie, a former collegiate safety who helped get Illinois to the 1984 Rose Bowl.
“My first love was basketball actually, but he pretty much groomed me,” Williams said. “I came in as a corner and eventually moved to safety. He pretty much taught me the ways. He helped me a lot.”
A redshirt junior, it was Williams who came up with a diving interception of Montana’s Jordan Johnson in last week’s 21-14 overtime road loss.
Williams closed on a corner post route while the ball was in the air to grab the first interception of Johnson all season. The Montana quarterback had thrown 16 touchdowns without a pick going into the game.
It was also, however, just the third Mustangs interception of the season, a total that ranks 11th in the 13-team Big Sky Conference and 105th in the FCS.
“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing,” Williams said. “Watching a lot of film, studying our opponents and being in the right spots when the time comes to make that play. The interceptions and fumbles will come. We just need to keep playing.”
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Northern Arizona running back Zach Bauman has had a terrific collegiate career, but would have worked out that way had Deonte Williams stuck around in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Williams was the Big Sky newcomer of the year after rushing for 950 yards and 12 touchdowns as a Lumberjacks freshman in 2009.
After that, Williams transferred out of the program and went on to play his final two seasons at Cal Poly, becoming the Mustangs’ second all-time leading single-season rusher with more than 1,500 yards as a senior last season.
An Arizona native, Bauman landed in Flagstaff in 2010, making an immediate impact and running for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons.
Williams “had a real successful career,” Northern Arizona head coach Jerome Souers said. “He’s a good kid, and I’m proud of him for that.
“We’re happy with Zach Bauman. He loves it at NAU, and he’s brought a lot to the table. It’s worked out for everybody, and that’s what’s important.”
The Cal Poly defense has already faced some of the top offenses in the country, and another is yet to come.
Both Portland State and Yale are averaging 537 yards of total offense per game, good enough for a third-place tie in the FCS.
Montana is fifth with a 170.67 pass-efficiency rating. In three weeks, the Mustangs will host Eastern Washington, which leads the nation in passing efficiency at 181.58.
Coming into today’s game, Cal Poly leads the FCS with 287.3 rushing yards per game. Sam Houston State is second with 285.4.