We continue the Better Know a Buckeye series with its 20th installment in 2018. Here, we profile Alex Williams, a defensive end from Pickerington.
- Size: 6-7/250
- Position: DE
- Hometown: Pickerington, OH
- School: Pickerington North
- 247 Composite: ★★★
- National Ranking: 617
- Position Ranking: 34 (WDE)
- State Ranking: 26 (OH)
Alex Williams was a last-minute addition to Ohio State's recruiting class. Ohio State identified defensive end as a major position of need late into the cycle and, entering the week before the early signing period, the Buckeyes still had no defensive ends in the class. Williams, who had been committed to WVU by that point, received an offer in the days leading into the early signing period. He mulled it over a few days before switching his commitment from WVU to Ohio State on Dec. 19 of last year.
I retell this recruitment below. I offer a scouting report for a defensive end prospect short on technique but long on explosiveness and actual height. I suggest a redshirt would be best for Ohio State and Alex Williams and close with senior-year highlight film that best shows his long-term potential for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State fans may remember that Alex Williams was one of the last-minute additions to Ohio State's recruiting class during the early signing period. Williams, like Robert Landers, flipped from West Virginia to Ohio State in the eleventh hour of the class' recruiting cycle. They may not remember Ohio State is actually the third program to which he committed during his entire recruitment.
Williams first pledged to Iowa State as what would have been the first commitment in its 2018 recruiting class, resulting in this vague celebration from then-first year Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell.
The future starts now! A huge foundational start. #Elite18#AStormIsBrewing #WinTheLine— Matt Campbell (@ISUMattCampbell) April 21, 2016
The explanation here is fairly straightforward. Iowa State was one of Alex Williams' first major offers, which makes a program attractive for a recruit still early into the recruiting cycle. Further, there was a strong family connection between Pickerington North and Iowa State. Williams' high school coach at the time was the brother of Iowa State's then-director of player personnel. Both factors made Iowa State an easy pitch to Williams and made it easy for Williams to "buy" into the program.
This happened during Williams' sophomore year and his recruitment was far from over. Williams continued to take visits while he kept the Iowa State pledge as a proverbial bird in the hand. He visited Pittsburgh twice in the fall of 2016. He visited West Virginia for its junior day in March 2017 and left so impressed with the experience that he changed his pledge to the Mountaineers last May.
Alex Williams has committed to play football at West Virginia University!— Panther Football (@pnfootball) May 9, 2017
It could conceivably have ended there, but Ohio State came calling. Ohio State identified major depth issues on the defensive line that were going to hit the defensive line hard in 2018 and 2019. It had addressed the more pressing concerns at defensive tackle by hauling in Antwuan Jackson, Tommy Togiai, and Taron Vincent. However, the Buckeyes had no defensive end commitments to that point and it was running out of time to find them.
The Buckeyes floated an offer to Alex Williams in the middle of December to leverage its in-state prestige over his standing commitment to WVU and the eleventh hour nature of the offer. Williams mulled it over a few days before making a decision before the early signing period.
Alex Williams flipped from WVU to Ohio State on Dec. 19, 2017 as the 20th member of what would become Ohio State's full 2018 recruiting class.
It is official!!! @Williams99_PN will be a Buckeye!!! pic.twitter.com/shKpXrX5qI— Panther Football (@pnfootball) December 20, 2017
Williams was mum on the exact nature of his last-minute courtship with Ohio State. He would not even say when exactly he received his offer from the Buckeyes. However, he explained that his decision hinged on the allure of the program. He aspired to play for Ohio State and was raised in the shadow of the university. It was ultimately the right call for Williams to flip from WVU to Ohio State.
WHERE HE EXCELS
I first watched Williams' junior-year film and wondered why he was offered because he didn't show a whole lot on it. However, a fan who watches that film should know Williams transitioned from an offensive lineman to a defensive lineman after his sophomore year and immediately went to work on his overall strength and explosiveness. The junior-year film won't show the dividends of that but the senior-year film will.
Namely, Williams' major promise is that he's every bit of 6-7 and is an instant threat to bat down any pass should he get any pressure into the backfield. What he lacks in technique he compensates in increasing explosiveness off the line of scrimmage. Williams put in the work after his sophomore year to this position change and the results are beginning to show. It's easy to see why Larry Johnson and Urban Meyer think there's potential for Alex Williams in Ohio State's program.
MUST WORK ON
Williams is relatively new to defensive line and even camp visits he may have taken may have focused on him more as a future offensive lineman or tight end than him as a future defensive end. The long and short of Williams' tape is that his athleticism and size make him an intriguing prospect but, right now, there's just so much he doesn't know about technique at the position.
He relied on his size and strength to make plays in the backfield. Those will translate nicely to Ohio State, but he needs to learn how to use his hands to fight off blocks. He needs to better learn how to "get skinny" and shoot between gaps. All of these things are teachable with JJ Watt as the classic case of how a two-star tight end at Central Michigan became an All-American at Wisconsin and arguably the best defensive end in the NFL for the Houston Texans through sheer effort, focus, and instruction.
Ohio State does have immediate depth concerns at defensive end but Williams has a long way to go on technique before he could crack an Ohio State two-deep. Williams' potential rests more in what he can do after two or three years in the program.
Here is a senior-year highlight film of Alex Williams.