2017 was a truly special recruiting cycle for Georgia Tech, featuring an unprecedented number of highly-rated DB signees. It would be easy to lose track of some future Jackets in the cavalcade of 4-star prospects at the position, but it’s important to analyze each prospect to see what he brings to the team. When the defense regularly calls upon 5 DBs to contribute, everyone will need to step up.
As a Recruit
Williams garnered heavy interest from Power-5 programs with offers from Duke, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi State, UNC, Purdue, and Wake Forest. He decided to commit to Georgia Tech on June 11th, 2016 and became the 5th commit of the cycle at the time. He was the first of a long train of extremely talented defensive backs that would commit to the 2017 class.
The biggest knock on Williams is his frame. He’s listed at 5-11 or 5-10, depending on the recruiting site, and 170 to 180 lbs. Those height numbers may be generous as well. Evaluators will be concerned about his frame limiting his upside and causing him to be susceptible to match-up problems against taller receivers.
As an athlete, Williams displays quick feet and outstanding short-area quickness, two traits that will serve him especially well in zone coverage. He also has quick, fluid hips which is an essential trait for corners.
He has adequate, though not elite speed, which is his biggest athletic shortcoming. He was able to stay with his assignment in man coverage in high school, but college will present much tougher challenges. Deep speed allows corners to recover from mistakes against fast receivers. There’s a reason it’s called “recovery speed” in this context. Lacking this tool forces the defender to play a more perfect game.
A lack of an elite tool was also a likely factor in his lower ranking. Williams lacks Askew’s deep speed, or the length and range of Swilling and Bonds. Tools like these help corners match up with some of the athletic freaks that DBs will encounter in the ACC.
Reading the above, Williams seems like a lackluster prospect. Where he shines, however, is on film. There’s so much to like on his tape, I’m not even sure where to begin.
Let’s start with the physicality. Oh boy the physicality. He certainly doesn’t play small despite his frame. Williams relishes his role in run support, playing the enforcer on outside runs and screens. He flies to the football with reckless abandon, and gets low to win the leverage battle against bigger ball-carriers. He also separates the ball from the carrier on impact exceptionally well. He’s liable to overshoot more talented backs in college, but learning the balance between aggression and patience is an important part of any defender’s development. Williams reads run plays and screens well, and commits to getting downhill once he’s read the play. He’s just plain nasty, and his aggression shows up in coverage as well.
In zone, Williams is quick to react, and breaks on the target with impressive speed. He attacks the catch point effectively to break up passes rather than settling to tackle the receiver after the completion, which is consistent with his aggressive play style. Williams is decisive as well, which will serve him well in Ted Roof’s schemes. For better or worse, soft quarters zone coverage is here to stay at Georgia Tech, but Williams has the quickness, decisiveness, and skill to play the scheme well.
In man, he was able to effectively stay with his assignment in a trail technique, and tracked the ball exceptionally well. Williams often tracked the ball better than the receivers he was covering, and effectively used his body to shield them from the ball while going for the interception. He aggressively pursues interceptions in both zone and man.
His ball skills are exceptional. He’s a hands catcher, and can high point the ball like a receiver. Williams isn’t going to drop interceptions
Williams doesn’t have flashy athletic upside, which limited his recruiting ranking, but the dude can play. He excelled at everything he did in high school, and looks like his technique and instincts will translate well to the college game.
Where does he fit? Williams has the physicality and short area quickness for the nickel position, and could be a good fit once Lawrence Austin graduates. I’ve advocated for rotational nickels before, and Williams could easily be the “quick nickel” used against teams that utilize quicker slot receivers. By sharing the position with a larger hybrid or safety type player, the defense can adapt when larger receivers and Tight Ends are placed in the slot. Ted Roof doesn’t currently do this, but I can dream.
Williams may be the least talked about DB from this class, but he could easily have an early impact.