In a key moment for the 2019 recruiting class, Notre Dame landed three star running back Kyren Williams out of Missouri today. The 5-10, 200 pounder also held offers from Michigan, Stanford, and Ohio State. He represents the first offensive skill position player to offer his verbal pledge, and helps a badly needed position at running back. Notre Dame has already lost Deon McIntosh and CJ Holmes, and will lose Dexter Williams following the 2018 season, leaving just three running backs on the roster who were recruited to play the position. In short, Notre Dame needed this badly.
Notre Dame Made Williams A Priority
Back in April, Notre Dame was set to land Chez Mellusi, running back from Florida, when he made his planned visit South Bend. The staff canceled that visit and set their sites on Williams, who they apparently felt was a better fit for their offense, despite Williams’ lower ranking. At the time, word had it that Williams was heavily leaning in their direction and the move away from Mellusi seemed to confirm that reporting. It got a little rocky from there.
There was some trepidation in recent weeks regarding Williams, with several other schools, Michigan most notably, making headway with the running back from Missouri. This represented a nightmare scenario for the Irish staff: losing out on both players. However, Williams visited the Notre Dame campus last weekend, and the staff was able to present Notre Dame in a way that shifted the tide toward the Irish. Williams quickly announced a commitment date, even with a planned visit to Michigan looming on the weekend, which he then canceled. Williams pulled the trigger for the Irish, and the plan came to fruition for the staff.
Kyren Williams The Player
With 922 rushing yards (on 9 ypc), and 51 receptions for 774 receiving yards, Williams’ skill set has been compared favorably to that of Theo Riddick, who took turns at running back and receiver while at Notre Dame. It’s unlikely Williams ever makes a move to the slot like Riddick did, the roster isn’t what it was when Kelly took over in 2010, but a similar role to Riddick circa 2012 is what the coaches have in mind.
Williams is a “but for his size” three star player to me. I thought of Shaun Crawford the same way coming out of high school. If Williams was actually 5-10 (he’s probably closer to 5-8) then he’s a four star prospect. But, he’s a smaller guy, and at his size, and the state he plays in, he needs to be considered really fast to warrant a higher ranking. That’s just how the services work.
When you watch his film, he’s got everything you want. He shows good vision on inside runs, power to lower his shoulder and break tackles, wiggle and jukes in space, and the speed to run away from defenders in the open field. He reminds me a lot of Golden Tate the way he’s able to absorb contact and brush it off, like “obviously this little tackle attempt on me isn’t going to work.”
He also plays with extreme confidence and competitiveness. It shows up in the clips of him playing receiver. He wants the jump balls and fights for them like he knows he’s going to get them. His hands are natural and is very comfortable catching a variety of passes, be it screens, corner routes, post routes, seem routes, or slant routes.
My favorite quality in Williams, and in any football player, is the impression that he is a natural at whatever position he plays. As if the position he is currently aligned is the one he was meant to play. He looks natural at running back and receiver. They put him on defense and he’s got great instincts at safety, when to make the big hit and when to make the interception. They send him on the blitz and he times it perfectly. It’s fun to watch players like that.
Williams fits a major need and his skill set fits the multi-dimensional aspects of the position Chip Long is looking for out of his running backs. More highly thought of than either running back Notre Dame signed in 2018, so will likely be candidate for early playing time when he arrives next season. Notre Dame will be looking for at least one more back in this class, and given how versatile Williams is, that player can have whatever skillset the coaches like best. Williams can be a compliment to anyone.