Who Else Was Interested
Williams quietly emerged as one of the top prospects on the West Coast, as he ended his recruitment with 13 FBS offers, including tenders from USC, UCLA and Notre Dame. Nebraska was actually one of the last schools to jump in after Williams, offering him on April 2, just two weeks before his unofficial visit to Lincoln for Nebraska’s spring game.
Williams’ Lincoln trip was his fourth trip of the spring. He had already taken visits to Notre Dame, Ohio State and Arizona State. Williams’ fourth visit was clearly his best, committing to Nebraska less than a week after taking in Lincoln.
Williams measures in at 6-1 and 175 pounds. Williams has an athletic and compact frame that still has plenty of room to fill out as he matures. He also has extremely long arms for his height, a tremendous asset for a young cornerback. Williams’ lower body is well-developed at this point but he still needs to fill out his upper body once he gets to Lincoln. He is a bit skinny in that area right now. When Williams is finished filling out, I would expect him to measure in at 6-1 and in the low 190-pound range.
1. His ball skills. Williams had over 1,000 receiving yards, which doesn’t happen unless you’ve got some pretty good hands. Williams does a good job of tracking the ball in the air and getting himself in position to make a play on the ball. Once he is in position, Williams does a solid job of high pointing the football and attacking the ball with his hands instead of allowing the ball into his chest. Nebraska is slowly re-discovering its ball hawking identity on defense and Williams’ ball skills will help keep that trend going in the right direction.
2. His agility/short area burst. Williams brings legitimate 4.5 speed to the table, which is always a great thing for a cornerback to have but it’s not his straight line speed that makes him special. Williams has tremendous agility and short-area quickness, evidenced by his 4.13 shuttle time. This agility allows Williams to effectively mirror opposing receivers and stay in position to make a play on the football. Williams’ ability to work in space will also make him a more versatile defensive back, as he can be trusted to move inside and cover the slot and not be purely an outside cornerback.
3. His physicality. Williams doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to press on defense at Roosevelt, but his physicality on offense shows that he will do just fine in that area in Lincoln. Williams plays with a chip on his shoulder and has a noticeable mean streak when blocking, striking his opponents and consistently driving them back and to the turf. Williams’ nasty streak, combined with his long arms will help bring a new level of physicality to Nebraska’s secondary, as he will be able to press effectively in Diaco’s aggressive coverage scheme.
4. His special teams potential. Nebraska’s coverage units are becoming more loaded by the day and Williams has the perfect skill set for special teams at the collegiate level. Williams’ speed and open-field agility makes him a tremendous fit for Nebraska’s coverage units as a gunner.
1. Keeping his aggressiveness in check on defense. Williams loves to get physical when in coverage, but he has moments where he overdoes it and gets himself out of position. This puts Williams in a spot where he has to play from behind, leading to him allowing catches or committing pass interference penalties. This over-aggressiveness can likely be attributed to Williams’ relative inexperience on the defensive side of the ball, as Williams will improve in this area as he continues to focus exclusively on cornerback once he gets to Lincoln.
2. His tackling form. Williams is more than willing to come up and hit from his cornerback position, but he needs to clean up his form in order to be an effective tackler at the Big Ten level. Williams is a bit of a “launcher” at this point, as he tends to stop his feet and launch at opposing ball carriers looking for a big hit. While this strategy has worked at the high school level, bigger and more talented ball carriers in college will run through his tackles unless he consistently shoots his arms and drives his feet upon contact. This is another flaw that will improve as Williams focuses exclusively on defense and adjusts to the increased speed and size of college football.
Nebraska’s focus on the state of California continued with another top prospect in Williams. He is one of the most talented prospects in the nation, as he has the potential to be an impact player on either side of the ball in Lincoln. Williams ceiling is higher on the defensive side of the ball and he has the size, quickness and physicality to become a true impact corner by the time he leaves Lincoln. Expect Williams to see the field as a true freshman in 2018 because his speed and physicality should help him find a home on special teams while also challenging for reps to replace the departed Chris Jones. Tremendous job by Donte Williams, who has brought in arguably the top cornerback class in the nation so far this recruiting cycle.
College Comparison: Houston cornerback Howard Wilson
Pro Comparison: Washington Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland