The offseason lull has been made worse by the empty space between the end of the regular season for men’s hoops and the conference tournament. To bide the time, I introduce the 4th installment of our 19 (or 20) part series on the individuals comprising the 2008 recruiting class. For this particular feature, I look at Washington Court House stud and projected defensive end Nathan Williams, the process by which he became a Buckeye and what we can expect.
His Recruitment: Like Ben Buchanan before him, Nathan Williams made it known that the objective was to become a Buckeye and anything short of that would be a failure. Williams was a lifelong fan and a regular at Ohio State home games. In the 2006 season alone, Williams made it to the NIU, Bowling Green, Indiana and Minnesota games. In 2005, he made it to every single home game. It was clear from the get go that if Ohio State was willing to have him, Nathan would be more than willing to be there. Of course, Williams’ potential drew the interest of several suitors. Notre Dame piqued his curiosity, so too did the possibility of playing at Michigan. These, of course, are two programs that, no matter where you’re from, you know about and think about if you’re a prep star in HS football. Along the way, Nathan picked up offers from California, UCLA, Wisky, Georgia, Michigan State, WVU among, no doubt, a host of others. The most interesting aspect of his recruitment was the offer from Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, who it seems is trying to make inroads into the great state of Ohio to get some of that Ohio Speed (TM). Naturally, an offer from Oklahoma drew the attention of Williams, or at least in passing. Notwithstanding the variety of offers and the few visits he took early in 2007, Nathan made it clear that Ohio State was his runaway leader. Only perceived protraction on Ohio State’s part regarding a scholarship offer would behoove Williams to look elsehwere (chiefly Oklahoma, which was his no. 2 school it seems), a position he stated in early April 2007. On April 22, 2007, Nathan attended the Spring Game. Hours later, his recruitment would be over.
His Commitment: Nathan received an offer two days after the spring game (April 24) and accepted on the spot, becoming the 7th member of the 2008 recruiting class1. The story here, and one of the most underrated of the Buckeye’s 2008 recruiting campaign, was a tale of three text messages. Nathan Williams was advised to wait for an important message from Coach Tressel, though Nathan presumed that it would be over the telephone. Accordingly, he spent a few hours in the basement of his parents’ home watching TV, where his cell phone doesn’t get a reception. When he got up to go to bed, his cell phone lit up with a message sent several hours earlier from Tressel, asking if he wanted to play for the Buckeyes. Upon reception, Williams immediately responded back saying “it would be an honor to play for you coach” and that was that. Williams would reveal later what the actual content of Tressel’s messages were:
“So when I went up stairs to get ready for bed, I was kind of disappointed that nothing happened. I turned off my phone and then turned it back on and the next thing I knew, I had three or four text messages from coach Tressel and coach Heacock and a couple of my buddies. So I looked at the Tressel one, and it said, ‘Nate, coach Heacock had a great day at your school. It sounds like you’re doing great. We have a scholarship for you. What would you think about becoming a Buckeye?’
“I told him it would be a great honor. I’ve always wanted to be a Buckeye and it would be a tremendous honor to play for him.”
Williams said Tressel sent him separate messages back saying, “Wow!!!!!!”, “congrats” and “I’ll be in to see you in May. Welcome to the family.”
One can only hope that Tressel had the common sense not to use lolspeak on his Blackberry, since a message of “NATE, COACH HEACOCK HAD GREAT DAI AT UR SKOOL. IT SOUNDZ LIEK URE DOIN GREAT. WE HAS SCHOLARSHIP 4 U. WUT WUD U FINKZ BOUT BECOMIN BUCKEYE?”2 would not only give us an irreversible case of the heebie-jeebies, but is something we expect from Ron Zook. Not Senator Tressel.
As Tressel indicated in his text message, Coach Heacock was in the stands at a track meet where Nathan was participating earlier in the day. I think it would be fair to say that Williams’ commitment was overshadowed and largely unsung by Buckeye recruitniks for a few reasons, all of them obvious. First, the time between his offer and his commitment can probably be measured in seconds, as opposed to days or weeks. Most Buckeyes were unaware if he would get an offer. Second, and perhaps even more obvious, was the stated arrival of out-of-state prizes Michael Brewster and JB Shugarts into the fold, giving rise to discussion of the “Block O” recruiting class. Brewster committed on April 21 and Shugarts committed earlier the same day. Of course, one reason I’m doing these features is to give all recruits their share of attention on a blog that no one reads.
Nathan Williams, the HS MLB, college DL/Leo: Most clips of Nathan have him at middle linebacker, which was his position of preference in high school and given his frame, where was best suited to play. Williams capitalized on the position through frequent blitz packages aimed at making life hell for the competition. This resulted in 149 tackles, 24 TFL, 6 sacks, 8 forced fumbles and 5 fumble recoveries in his junior season. However, Williams was recruited for defensive end in college because he has the frame to grow into and will definitely get bigger, projected to end up anywhere from 260 to 275lbs. It’s precisely this uncertainty about how big he will get that adds to the conversation of Nathan becoming the Leo for the Buckeyes, the position most recently made famous by Bobby Carpenter for being an outside linebacker that occasionally lines up on the line of scrimmage. If having a 6’4 or 6’5 guy at linebacker seems a little odd, I should remind you that Mike Vrabel is 6’4 and 260lbs. If he can keep (or even improve) his speed, Williams might be the Viper for the future. Nathan and his HS coach have certainly be told that position is what made the Bucks interested in him3.
Nathan Williams, the Running Back: Even though most registers of Williams have him listed at 6’4, and even as high as 6’5, Nathan played some time at fullback in high school. He even got a few handoffs. Yes, a 6’4 fullback. Explaining why might be beyond me, since I never played HS football. If I had to guess, putting him at fullback and even getting him the ball is probably just a means of getting your HS stud and best player the ball in whatever way possible. Nathan was, far and away, the best player on the field in any conference game he played, so I guess why not give him the ball or set up key blocks for your speedsters? Making this an even more interesting move is Williams being clocked at running a 4.67 40 and 11.0 100. All of this at 235-240lbs. Whatever curiosities there were from defensive players against Miami Trace over why he would get the ball on a handoff was presumably followed by the pain felt by being runover by a glorified beertruck. Accordingly, Williams average 700 yards on 111 carries from the position. Don’t expect to see it at OSU, but should you come across some Nathan Williams highlights, do enjoy.
Where He Excels: Tackling, most definitely. Nathan Williams’ tackles are less a manner of bringing you to the turf but more a manner of causing you, the ball carrier, great amounts of pain. Great explosiveness out of the gates from the MLB position as well. In the highlight footage, you can see this manifest in Williams exploding through the line before most lineman can get a hand on him. Pursuit was also wonderful. I was also impressed with how Williams is able to squeeze through an offensive line and keep momentum. If there’s the slightest maneuverable hole in the line, Williams can get through it and not break speed, making him that much more of a menace in the backfield.
Must Work On: I mention that Williams is excellent at maneuvering through small holes in the line, made better by his great jump out of the gates that can get him through the line before most lineman can really engage him. Yet, when a lineman is able to lock up on him, Williams is not entirely efficient in shedding him. I think you can pick up on this in his Scouting Ohio footage. Nathan also admits as such and attributes the problem to hands4. This is the main thing I picked up on, though I’m sure coaches will fine tune him even more
Redshirt? Not a clue. My understanding is that either he or Wells will probably redshirt, and Wells stands the most to benefit from a redshirt and additional conditioning. Therefore, perhaps Williams will be the one that gets the jumpstart into the depth chart. Of course, the staff gives the players all the information and allows them to choose, so there’s no guarantees.
You Might Remember Me From Such College Greats As: Everyone here says Bobby Carpenter, because he was the most recent Buckeye great at the Viper position. However, I keep thinking of Mike Vrabel. Carpenter certainly had the size (~260lbs) that Williams projects at, but Williams is a full 2 or 3 inches taller than Carpenter at the moment. Vrabel, on the other hand was the down lineman for the Bucks in Cooper’s 3-4 scheme and is at a registered 6’4 in height. Of course, there really is no footage of Nathan at down lineman, so this is all guessing. And I’m obviously an idiot; I think we’ve established that.
Miscellany: Selected to play in the Big 33, one of 4 Buckeyes to do so… All-Ohio First Team D-II as a Junior… Runs the 100 meter dash for his track team (and hence the given time of 11 seconds)… Duane Long (of Bucknuts) thinks Nathan Williams might be the most underrated player in the entirety of the 2008 Ohio (the whole state) class. Long’s exact words: “He’s an absolute wrecking machine.”… Raised in some formative years in California, but moved back to Ohio as an adolescent… From the same HS as Buckeye legend and social pariah Art Schlichter. According to Nathan, Art Schlichter visited him at his HS and relayed the message back to Heacock to take Nathan while he still could5. While I certainly wish Art well in his endeavors to not be a menace to society, I am really uncomfortable with him being near Buckeye recruits.
The Quotable Nathan Williams Fluff Piece: There’s a few quotes here, but since Nathan is one of the more unsung recruits in our class, and probably the least known, there’s not a lot to choose from:
“The main reason for me is family… My dad, my grandma and my sister all live in Washington C.H. Every single time I went up to Ohio State, I thought those coaches were my family. I felt so comfortable with them. They treated me like family.”
“I’ve always dreamed what it would be like to come out of that tunnel, to run off that scarlet carpet and play football for Ohio State in Ohio Stadium… Now I’m going to get that chance, and, really, it’s a feeling I can’t explain. It’s unbelievable.”
And, of course, he caters to my unquenchable lust for violence:
“I want to smack someone upside the head on every play.”
Highlights: Scouting Ohio to the rescue, since there’s nothing on the YouTubes. Of course, Rivals.com has some videos as well.
So, to arguably the least known commitment in the 2008 Ohio State class, consider yourself better known… I guess. God I wish I could think of a less pretentious way to close these things off.
- Shugarts committed the same day, but I believe Shugarts committed earlier in the day. Someone correct me if I’m wrong. [↩]
- Translation obtained here [↩]
- see aforementioned Dispatch article [↩]
- “I just have to work on my hands a little bit when it comes to shedding the blocker, but I have a nose for the football.”, on his Scout.com profile [↩]
- see Times-Gazette article [↩]