Notre Dame received its 23rd commitment for the recruiting class of 2015 when well-rounded Florida running back Dexter Williams announced for Notre Dame today, providing the payoff for a lot of hard work by Tony Alford. Williams is listed at 6'0" and 192 pounds; across three Nike SPARQ scoring events, he recorded a 4.55 40, a 45" vertical, and a 4.01 20-yard shuttle. In the 247 Composite, he's ranked as the #94 overall player, the #11 running back, and the #16 player in Florida. If anyone calls Dexter a Plan B option or a consolation prize, you have our permission to slap that person.*
* Just kidding. Use your best judgment in that situation. And remember you're less likely to injure yourself with an open hand.
Williams committed to Miami all the way back in April but continued to visit other schools, taking unofficial and official visits to about a dozen schools after committing to Miami. He tried to set up an official visit to Notre Dame for the Louisville game but broke his foot the day before, and then again for the football banquet but scratched right before the event. Then he decommitted from Miami and on the same day scheduled his official to Notre Dame again, and was joined on the flight up by an impeccably timed Tony Alford. Since that visit Williams was rumored to be a silent commit, which seemed to be proven by the way the staff backed off Soso Jamabo and Ke'Shawn Vaughn. Finally all that hard work by Alford and the rest of the Irish staff came to fruition when Dexter faxed his letter of intent to South Bend today.
And on his January official visit, how much did the cold bother a kid from Florida who by his own admission had never seen snow before? This would be Dexter having a snowball fight with his best friend Jalen Julius. So, not much.
Recruiting Service Rankings
Rivals - 4 star (5.9 rating), #120 overall, #12 position, #21 in Florida
247 - 4 star (94 rating), #139 overall, #14 position, #20 in Florida
ESPN - 4 star (84 rating), #78 overall, #5 position, #16 in Florida
Scout - 4 star, #114 overall, #17 position, #14 in Florida
247 Composite - 4 star (0.9551 rating), #94 overall, #11 position, #16 in Florida
Those who follow Irish recruiting closely may be familiar with the phrase "He gone" from various message boards, always used in a negative sense to refer to a recruit's imminent decommitment. Well, it means something else for Dexter - we said above he ran a 4.55 40 at a Nike camp, and that time sure looks legit judging by his highlights. Given his speed he could probably get away with just hitting the jets on every carry, but he displays excellent patience and vision, allowing his blocks to develop and then shooting through wherever the hole opens. Check the play at the 0:55 mark to see what I mean. His running style reminds me a lot of Tarean Folston with a bit more quickness and acceleration, or maybe a slightly less shifty Cierre Wood - high praise for a guy who's not on campus yet, and of course he has to show it at the next level. But I firmly believe his ceiling is very high.
If I had to pick a nit, I'd say that Williams might - and I heavily stress might - have to work on finishing runs more consistently, particularly by the sideline. The reason I say "might" is that I have no health or game situation context for the runs where he kind of seemed to give up, and he did have a foot issue that may have affected his running (I don't know if it did or didn't, but it's possible). Plus there are plenty of runs on this same highlight video where he lowers the shoulder or he takes a big hit and keeps going. The other thing Dexter will undoubtedly have to work on is the passing game; I can't find senior stats online, but in his first three seasons of high school ball he had only 8 receptions against 310 carries. He transferred after his junior season so there's a chance he was in a more pass-heavy system as a senior, but even so, there's no catching or blocking in this senior highlight video.
Williams will be the clear #3 back in the fall and, with how heavily Brian Kelly likes to use a rotation at the position, should see significant action. Folston is well-positioned to be the workhorse and Greg Bryant - who hosted Dexter on his official visit - will be entrenched as the #2 back, but Williams will certainly get his carries. Fellow freshman Josh Adams may also see some action, but he and Williams are very different runners and I think he'll be used more situationally. Williams, for his part, looks like the perfect running back for Harry Hiestand's zone blocking scheme and should settle right in for the Irish.
Long Term / Career
I expect Williams to eventually start and be a very good player for the Irish. It's a little hard to predict a specific timeline with a lot of uncertainty around the two lead guys in the backfield; Folston and Bryant will both be entering their third year on campus in the fall, which means both would be eligible for the 2016 NFL draft if they so desire. I would be kind of surprised if either left, honestly, so I think it's most likely that Williams will be the co-starter in 2017, either as 1B to Greg Bryant's 1A or more likely as 1A to some as-yet-unidentified young pup's 1B. Either way, he'll play often and will continue the trend of very good running backs to play for Kelly at Notre Dame.