Reviewing the Redshirts is an off-season series meant to resurrect discussion around the current Irish freshmen who did not play in 2014.
There were 11 players this past year who retained a year of eligibility and today we take a look at a quickly developing pass rusher from southern Michigan.
DE, Jhonny Williams
Hometown: Benton Harbor, Michigan
247Sports COMPOSITE RANKING:
3-star, No. 46 SDE, No. 17 MI, No. 984, 0.8401 Score
Need at Position: High
Expected Spot on the Depth Chart: Rotational Specialized Pass Rusher
Notre Dame is quietly preparing to unleash Jhonny Williams next season by going through such pains to hide him from the world that they didn't even bother to fill out his biography on UND.com this year. Here's what I had to say about Williams following last year's National Signing Day:
I love Williams for a couple reasons. First, he's not someone who Notre Dame has typically targeted during the Kelly era. He's got more of a basketball frame right now and is the type of speed rusher that the 3-4 defense really isn't looking for and doesn't utilize all that well. So, I like that they've gone outside their comfort zone. Secondly, his first step is awesome and he's a mean SOB on film. Sure he's athletically superior to his competition but he's wrecking opponents all while being 220 with all his football equipment on and soaking wet. I really don't think you see many kids this skinny so violent and physical in high school. Due to that weight, however, he's probably at least a year away but his potential is enormous. Williams should be a great fit as a 250-pound outside linebacker with a hand in the ground or a speed rushing 4-3 defensive end. I wouldn't even count out him learning behind Jaylon Smith.
First, let's talk about Williams' size. He was listed as tall as 6-6 coming out high school. After taking off the 'recruiting 2 inches' he's now 6-4 according to Notre Dame. Not a big deal that he's not quite as tall but he's still got very lanky and long arms. What's more interesting is that Jhonny was able to pack on pounds rather quickly leading up to August camp. That increase likely ends any chances that he'll be playing linebacker.
So here we are a year later knowing Williams was destined to redshirt mostly for size reasons and he's already nearing proto-typical 4-3 defensive end measurements. Leading up to the 2014 season there were good things being said about him and even during the injury riddled campaign for the team there were whispers Williams could make an impact but the coaches desperately wanted to keep his redshirt.
Looking back, I was shocked at how low Williams was rated coming out of high school. I remembered him being an unheralded 3-star but not that low.
I have high hopes for him, to go along with tempered expectations in 2015. You look at the pass rush from this past fall (just 9.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss from the ends, and this includes Isaac Rochell) and there is an obviously glaring hole for a legit speed rusher. Naturally, it could be Williams who steps up into that role.
However, when you start talking about the other players with experience coming back Williams' role could get a little fuzzy. The Irish will have senior Romeo Okwara with junior Isaac Rochell able to swing both inside and out. Then you look at Andrew Trumbetti, Grant Blankenship, and Kolin Hill--all whom gained experience as freshmen. Now factor in the possible (likely?) return of Ishaq Williams and Jhonny Williams is going to have to fight past a lot of bodies for any semblance of regular minutes.
I'd argue no one on the roster has the skill-set like Jhonny and that could help his cause. In a perfect world he's progressed next fall into a dangerous third down rusher fully capable of racking up 5 sacks on the season. In the real world, he's probably destined to be brought along slowly, show some flashes, and ultimately remain outside the regular rotation.