Reviewing the Redshirts is an off-season series meant to resurrect discussion around the current Irish freshmen who did not play in 2015.
There were 11 players this past year who retained a year of eligibility and today we look at a local safety who will have every opportunity to impress this fall.
S, Mykelti Williams
Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana
247 Sports COMPOSITE RANKING:
3-star, No. 29 S, No. 4 IN, No. 464 USA, 0.872 Score
Need at Position: Very High
Expected Spot on 2016 Depth Chart: Backup
I rated Williams as the 5th lowest recruit from last cycle and was the most bearish on him than any of our writers in our NSD grading. Here are my comments from a year ago:
An efficient tackler with good instincts. He gets low and drops ball carriers on the spot with great consistency. It's not flashy but that sound tackling ability is coveted at the safety position. Flashes good footwork from time to time but oftentimes gets by slowly shuffling around before breaking on the ball. A good athlete with mature size. Looks physically ready to compete as a freshman. Would really be nice to groom Williams for a couple seasons and slowly develop him. He's a nice prospect but I would be concerned if he's relied on to play even a backup role in 2015.
Last cycle was really, really tough on the safety position. The Irish took under-sized Nicco Fertitta very early in the process and just kept waiting and waiting for things to blossom with other prospects. Then, another commit came on board in the form of Prentice McKinney. However, by the end of the 2014 season McKinney's status as a commit was on shaky ground and soon enough he left for North Carolina's class.
Williams visited Notre Dame for Junior Day in early 2014 but there wasn't much contact with Notre Dame over the coming months and throughout that season. Once it looked like McKinney wouldn't qualify Notre Dame got into it quickly with Williams who did not hesitate and gave his verbal before Christmas of 2014.
The Irish wanted other safeties but literally struck out with everyone. Right after National Signing Day, defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks bolted to Oklahoma--and Prentice McKinney followed.
We needed an instant-impact safety but they are hard to find and you can't hold that against Williams. Indeed, the Irish were lucky they did not have to burn his redshirt this past season. Mykelti was pulled off scout team, moved up to varsity after the season-ending injury to Drue Tranquill, and soon after Kelly mentioned that Williams was still learning and not ready to play. A month later, Williams did receive some praise as someone who was practicing well among the freshmen.
This is going to be a tough situation for Williams if you believe he's more of a developmental project. Almost by default he's no worse than a backup at either safety position heading into 2016 and 2 of the players ahead of him have never been able to stay healthy over their careers. It really won't take much for him to be thrust into a starting role.
The good news is that Williams has the physical and mental maturity to take this challenge on for 2016. While I didn't necessarily see a future starter coming out of high school I've been completely wrong before and he was the Indianapolis Player of the Year over some really good prep prospects, including classmate Asmar Bilal.
There may be no more important player to watch this spring just because if Mykelti has already developed into a legit starter it could do wonders for the defense. This unit needs to replace a veteran, they need better safety play overall, and at minimum they desperately need quality depth. Hopefully, Williams can step up into a role as a redshirt freshman.