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Irish A-to-Z: Jhonny Williams

Aug 29, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

Jhonny Williams Signing Day

Arriving late on the scene during the recruiting cycle, Notre Dame looks like they found a good one in freshman Jhonny Williams. The lanky, explosive defensive end has a pass rush skill-set that is quite scarce on the Irish roster. That’ll help him onto the field this fall, even if he’s still learning the game.

With multiple sub-packages, Williams will primarily be a third down player. But if he’s able to continue learning — and add mass to his already impressive frame — the Irish look like they found a diamond in the rough in Williams.

Let’s take a closer look at the freshman from nearby Benton Harbor, Michigan.


6’4″ 252 lbs.
Freshman, No. 33



Williams stayed off the national radar for most of his recruitment, looking at MAC schools offers until Missouri offered and Williams accepted. But when Notre Dame came calling in November after evaluating his senior film, he became a priority target and quickly flipped to the Irish.

Growing up 30 minutes from campus certainly didn’t hurt. Nor did Williams’ desire to stay close to home, a single-parent household where Williams has held man of the house responsibilities since he was 12.  That allows the fairly raw football player to play for one of the premiere programs in college football, all while being a stone’s throw away from home.

Kelly talked about Williams’ inexperience on the football field and how excited the staff was to find him late.

“Here’s a young man that just started play the game,” Kelly said. “There’s no ceiling on Jhonny Williams’s future. He’s an engaging young man.  He just recognizes that he’s got a great opportunity at Notre Dame, and we’re excited to provide him that opportunity.”



One surprise for many is the relative heft that Williams already possesses. No, he’s not as long as the 6-foot-6 many advertised during recruiting, but Williams looks every bit the 250 pounds when I saw him last week. A high-flier on the basketball court, Williams shows a burst in the limited reps that we’ve seen, and if there’s anything close to a designated pass rusher on this roster, it might be him.

Coached hard by Mike Elston, the Irish staff is going to need to really work with Williams to make sure he’s up to speed on his responsibilities so he can get onto the field. But when third down comes around, that could mean just letting Williams pin his ears back and chase down the quarterback.



I think we should look at Williams the same way we looked at a young Prince Shembo, only Williams possesses a little bit better length. Depending on the amount of snaps he plays, Williams could be in line for a few sacks and a few more quarterback hurries.

It’s hard fully understanding how athletically gifted Williams is without seeing him play. But we’ll get that opportunity this weekend, or so Kelly has said, with our first look at Williams coming crashing off the edge.

If anything, Williams is a good reminder for those recruitniks who covet star rankings. Joined by Greer Martini as freshmen recruits who didn’t seem to garner any national attention, Martini is already in the two deep and Williams is expected to rush the passer from the start. Not bad for a kid nobody had heard of last October.



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
Ishaq Williams



  1. sblxdoc - Aug 29, 2014 at 4:26 PM

    I am really excited about this guy. Based on what I’ve seen on film, this guy is gonna be a straight up baller. Quickness off the edge is something we’re not used to seeing at Notre Dame. Let’s just hope that the only thing in common between this Williams and the other highly anticipated defensive end is their last name.

  2. rdw71 - Aug 29, 2014 at 6:24 PM

    Minor note – he’s from Berrien Springs, not Benton Harbor. Notable not just for accuracy, but because it means he has never seen offensive lineman anywhere close to what he will see this year. So we should not expect too much from him this year, but next year…..hold on!

  3. blackirish23 - Aug 29, 2014 at 6:56 PM

    Can someone please educate me on the difference between an “every down player” on the D-Line versus a “third down player” like Keith is suggesting for young Williams?

    I’d assume 3rd down is a more critical down and requires more thought from the defense but I could be mistaken.

    Keith – are you referring to special packages on obvious passing 3rd downs with his ability to rush the passer, or are we talking 3rd downs in general? Anyway, I’m just curious.

    • rdw71 - Aug 29, 2014 at 7:44 PM

      yes – a 3rd-and-7 sort of DE, not 3rd-and-1. And since Rice has been committed to the run even when they fall behind, I don’t think you’ll see him in there much this week.

      Lots of teams are going to try to establish the run first against ND until we show we can stop it, so I think Jhonny might get on the field only 5-10 plays a game for a while, which is the right way for him to get accustomed to the college game anyway.

  4. liv4nd - Aug 30, 2014 at 12:32 AM

    A third down D-Lineman has one job. Rush/sack the QB. At least on the edge. The don’t have to worry about coverage, audibles, etc. The linebacker and secondary packages take care of that. This way a kid like this can use his raw athleticism to just do what he knows and not have to worry about much else.

  5. irishdog80 - Aug 30, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    From a football talent perspective, this Williams seems similar to Aaron Lynch without the press and attitude issues… a lot of length, speed and leverage.

    Go Irish! Beat Rice!

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