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Irish A-to-Z: Ishaq Williams

Aug 28, 2014, 7:42 PM EDT

USC v Notre Dame Getty Images

The look of Notre Dame’s defensive line changed drastically when senior Ishaq Williams was suspended indefinitely for his role in the academic dishonesty case now pending at the university level. The former five-star recruit was expected to start at strongside defensive end, one final chance to live up to the lofty expectations that Williams brought with him to South Bend.

But with his future in doubt, the Irish now turn to youth upon youth at the position, with sophomore Isaac Rochell being backed up by freshman Grant Blankenship.

Assumed to be a key cog up front for Brian VanGorder’s defense, let’s look at what Williams means to the Irish defense.

Here’s more on the Brooklyn native.


6’5.5″ 271 lbs.
Senior, No. 11



Williams’ recruitment went down in Irish lore, when defensive coordinator Bob Diaco intercepted Williams in the early morning hours, talking him into coming to Notre Dame as an early enrollee over Penn State. The five-star recruit had dozens of offers, but in the end he chose the Irish, joining forces with Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt to form a trio of pass rushers that had Irish fans dizzy with anticipation.

Here’s what Brian Kelly had to say about Williams, just weeks after he enrolled for the spring semester.

“A young man that has great versatility, played in the Army All-American game. Just a great young man,” Kelly said. “He’s just so quick. He can obviously do a lot of things for us. He can put his hand down like he is right here… Pretty athletic player that he’s going to be able to redirect and make the play.”



Freshman Season (2011): Made six tackles in 11 games, appearing on special teams and as a reserve outside linebacker.

Sophomore Season (2012): Played in all 13 games for the Irish, making 22 tackles and 3.5 TFLs. Forced the fumble that Stephon Tuitt ran back for a 77-yard touchdown. Made a career-high four tackles against the Midshipmen.

Junior Season (2013): Injuries cost him two games, but saw action in 11 games while making 17 tackles. Notched his first career sack against Michigan. Made three tackles against Michigan State and Stanford.



There’s still plenty of potential here, though the clock is almost done ticking. Williams wasn’t able to play in front of Prince Shembo at cat linebacker the past two seasons, and played behind Darius Fleming as a freshman. That’s not an indictment, but certainly doesn’t help.

A position change to defensive end put less of a burden on Williams, though we won’t know how he takes to the change until — and that’s no given — he’s allowed back on the football field for Notre Dame.

Williams still looks likely to find his way onto an NFL roster, simply because football players to tend to come in the shape and size of Williams too often. But if there’s been a disappointment over the past few years, it’s been Williams inability to work his way onto the field and be a productive defender.



The future is just too murky without some clarity from the university on the academic status of Williams and the Four Coursemen. But if he’s able to play, he’s going to be a huge help along the defensive line, adding another big and strong body to a front that’s in desperate need of help.


The Irish A-to-Z
Josh Atkinson
Nicky Baratti
Alex Bars
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Justin Brent
Kyle Brindza
Chris Brown
Jalen Brown
Greg Bryant
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Amir Carlisle
Austin Collinsworth
Ben Councell
Scott Daly
Sheldon Day
Michael Deeb
Steve Elmer
Matthias Farley
Tarean Folston
Will Fuller
Everett Golson
Jarrett Grace
Conor Hanratty
Eilar Hardy
Mark Harrell
Jay Hayes
Matt Hegarty
Mike Heuerman
Kolin Hill
Corey Holmes
Chase Hounshell
Torii Hunter Jr.
Jarron Jones
DeShone Kizer
Ben Koyack
Christian Lombard
Tyler Luatua
Cole Luke
Nick Martin
Greer Martini
Jacob Matuska
Cam McDaniel
Mike McGlinchey
Colin McGovern
Pete Mokwuah
John Montelus
Kendall Moore
Nyles Morgan
Sam Mustipher
Quenton Nelson
Tyler Newsome
Romeo Okwara
James Onwualu
C.J. Prosise
Anthony Rabasa
Doug Randolph
Max Redfield
Cody Riggs
Corey Robinson
Isaac Rochell
KeiVarae Russell
Joe Schmidt
Elijah Shumate
Jaylon Smith
Durham Smythe
Ronnie Stanley
Drue Tranquill
Andrew Trumbetti
John Turner
Justin Utupo
Nick Watkins
Nic Weishar

  1. johngaltisspeaking - Aug 28, 2014 at 8:37 PM

    Not an sec player and a cheater. Big ten player

  2. sblxdoc - Aug 28, 2014 at 9:42 PM

    You gotta love his size, but just always seemed dazed n confused out on the field. I know there is still some time for Williams to turn the corner, but I think he is what we think he is. Like Keith stated, will probably make a NFL roster but only for a short time. Thank god he’ll have a ND degree to fall back on.

  3. nudeman - Aug 28, 2014 at 9:45 PM

    If anyone ever wondered what “damning with faint praise” means, this would be it:

    “A young man that has great versatility, played in the Army All-American game. Just a great young man,” Kelly said. “He’s just so quick. He can obviously do a lot of things for us. He can put his hand down like he is right here… Pretty athletic player that he’s going to be able to redirect and make the play.”

    Anytime you’re talking about a senior in college and you have to cite his playing in a HS All Star game 4 years ago as one of his highlights …

    Jesus …


    • irishdog80 - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:17 PM

      Ishaq has definitely earned the right to be damned with “faint praise” in his career.

      That said, the quotes you are referencing in your comment are from Williams Early Enrollee Press Conference in the Spring of 2011 and are referring to Williams high school career. Kelly is not talking about Williams college career.

    • don74 - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:23 PM


      A couple of weeks ago you questioned if there was a memorable Ishaq play. I remember one. His freshman season when he still wore #1. It was a kickoff return in one of the first couple of games…must have been away as he was wearing white (not the practice jerseys now available at the bookstore).

      At any rate Atkinson looks like he’s gonna take it to the house. There’s #1 running stride for stride with GAIII and all of a sudden he looks around and starts clapping thinking this is going for a TD. I forgot who they were playing but while IW as applauding a defender tackles George on about the 15.

      I was on twitter and one of the CFA writers who covered ND in the past but was in exile from the team that year twitted who’s #1? Great talent but celebrating is when the play is over.

      He’s been ok but he has great physical ability…..if he ever decides to put it together……….

      • nudeman - Aug 29, 2014 at 9:59 AM

        That’s pretty funny.
        It’s too bad about him and there are all sorts of possible reasons why he’s been such a non factor. The most common is that he has no passion. But maybe he just isn’t that good.

  4. simmel65 - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:18 PM

    That comment was from when he was recruited I think.

  5. mayesdays - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:25 PM

    Someone can surely make a few John Gal comments after looking at the below link.

  6. getsome99 - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:57 PM

    Second tier Big 12 teams killing the SEC.

  7. getsome99 - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:59 PM

    First, USC’s team captain breaks his ankles fleeing a robbery and claims he was saving a drowning child. Now we have a player quitting because the head coach is a racist. Same ol’ Trojans.

    • billtetley53 - Aug 29, 2014 at 12:01 PM

      Getsnone! How you been my idiot friend?

      You’re actually making fun of a schools problems when ND has a cheating scandal going on? Wait, that isn’t surprising at all you hypocrite.

      I’d like to introduce you to irishdog80. Why don’t you two put your heads together and make an ass of yourselves.

      • getsome99 - Aug 29, 2014 at 1:42 PM

        Um…who are you again?

      • billtetley53 - Aug 29, 2014 at 6:14 PM

        Good to see you’re still so easy to fluster. What a moron. You should probably leave poor nude out of it. I look forward to rattling your cage all season.

      • getsome99 - Aug 29, 2014 at 6:56 PM

        Ok. Sounds good, Nude.

    • billtetley53 - Aug 29, 2014 at 3:37 PM

      Yeah, maybe you dont remember. You’ll figure it out soon enough though.
      I am pretty unforgettable.

      • getsome99 - Aug 29, 2014 at 4:22 PM

        Lol. Is this John Galt’s Siamese twin? Paul Hargis? Aka – Nudeman’s Testicles.

        We thought you were dead. Looks like you came back with yet another alias.

        Well played, Nude.

  8. getsome99 - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:15 PM

    “I’ve got over 100 guys in that locker room that are more important or just as important than these two isolated incidents,” Sarkisian said. “I owe it to those guys to do the best job that I can do to prepare our staff and to prepare them to play a great football game on Saturday, and that’s what my focus is on.”

    LOL! Isn’t that pretty much word for word what Kelly said about losing his guys? The difference is Josh Shaw’s indefinite suspension will end when he’s healthy enough to get back on the field.

  9. newmexicoirish - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:27 PM

    I remember vividly when Tuitt, Lynch, and Williams committed to ND. I thought Mike Mayock was going to wet himself gushing about these guys. This was going to be the best defensive front in Notre Dame history. This wasn’t just hype either when you consider how Lynch played as a freshmen, or the fumble recovery Tuitt returned for a touchdown against Navy in Ireland. It’s an absolute shame though that the rest of it just didn’t come together. Lynch ended up too lovelorn to stay (and apparently his teammates were ready to kill him anyway ’cause he was a jerk), and Tuitt ran into some injury issues. Williams was always a season away from really coming into his own – whatever. But I was still hoping he might breakout this year. If nothing else he provided some depth where we sorely needed it. Damn, what could have been……….

    Anyway – Go Irish – whip the Owls!!

  10. johngaltisspeaking - Aug 29, 2014 at 12:31 AM

    Mike leech is better than Brian grand Valley state coach.

  11. jvsirish - Aug 29, 2014 at 9:27 AM

    You’re a funny little dwarf!

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