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.
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