From the first time Ryan Day could speak publicly about Kourt Williams, he made it clear he had big expectations for Williams’ future at Ohio State.
“I'll be surprised if he's not a captain when he's here,” Day said on signing day in December 2019. “I've said that to he and his parents a million times. They're probably tired of hearing me say that.”
Early in Ohio State’s preseason camp last year, those expectations were only growing. Williams was one of the first two members of his freshman class to have his black stripe removed. Day gushed about Williams during a radio appearance, describing him as “a young guy who I think has a chance to be a really, really good player” and “someone to keep an eye on.”
Williams’ hopes of making an immediate impact as a freshman were dashed when he tore his ACL in practice, ending his first season at Ohio State before it began. And because he neither played in 2020 nor practiced at all this spring, it’s hard to know what to expect from Williams this season. He’s seemingly tailor-made for the bullet position, as a safety with enough size (6-foot-1, 220 lbs) to play linebacker; Craig Young and Ronnie Hickman appeared to take most of the reps at that spot during the portions of practices that were open to the media this week, but Williams is still being eased back into practice.
If the way his coaches and teammates have talked about him over the past couple of weeks is any indication, however, there’s reason to believe Williams will earn his way onto the field much sooner than later.
His physical attributes and versatile skill set have plenty to do with that, as Williams’ athleticism gives him high upside in pass coverage while he also could also be a weapon as a downhill attacker in the box. Where Williams has really made an impression at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center this offseason, though, is with how hard he works.
“Kourt Williams is the most diligent worker that I have been around anywhere, any time, any place,” Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs said Friday. “The only guy that was like him was a kid named Logan Ryan at the Tennessee Titans. This kid is the first guy in the building every day. He’s the last guy to leave. He’s been living in the training room, rehabbing that knee. He watches film. He studies.”
Day made similar comments about Williams’ work ethic two weeks earlier at Big Ten Media Days.
“I think if you said, ‘Who’s the hardest-working guy in our building?’ A good portion of our team would say Kourt Williams,” Day said. “Sometimes he’s there at 5:30 in the morning, and I go home at night, he’s still there. He’s unbelievable, his work ethic, the way he’s rehabbed his knee. So we’re all dying to see him get on the field and play this year.”
After Day made that comment in Indianapolis, numerous Ohio State players and staffers – including director of player personnel Mark Pantoni and head physical therapist Adam Stewart – endorsed that comment through Twitter retweets. And multiple Buckeye players also corroborated what Day and Coombs said during interviews this week.
Walk-on quarterback J.P. Andrade named Williams first when asked if there were any players who had stood out to him with the work they’ve put in this offseason, saying that Williams has “been putting in countless hours of work.” And cornerback Sevyn Banks said Williams “definitely is the first one in, last one out.”
“He don’t really say as much, but when he does, people listen,” Banks said. “When he’s out there (on the practice field), people watch.”
“Kourt Williams is the most diligent worker that I have been around anywhere, any time, any place.”– Kerry Coombs
Because Williams wasn’t able to play last year and has only been back for a few practices after tearing his ACL just 10 months ago, Coombs didn’t want to make any proclamations on Friday about what Williams’ role could be in the defense this year. But he, like Day, said he is looking forward to seeing Williams in game action this fall.
“Man, I’m excited for him. I’m excited to coach a guy like that,” Coombs said. “You talk about leadership, nobody has to wonder where Kourt is. He’s in the training room. He’s in the weight room. He’s in the film room. That’s where he is. Every day, all day.”