Pro Football Focus’s College Football account shined a light on Nebraska safety Kieron Williams on Monday night, tabbing him as the best returning playmaker among safeties in the Big Ten.
Kieron Williams is a playmaker in his own right. pic.twitter.com/fURzINuKdB
— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 11, 2017
Per PFF, just over a quarter of the balls thrown Williams’ way led to really good things for the Huskers. Williams led the Huskers with five interceptions in his breakout junior season. With Byerson Cockrell exhausting his eligibility and Aaron Williams taking on the nickel corner role, Nebraska needed someone to play in the back end alongside Nathan Gerry and Kieron Williams emerged as the best option.
However, heading into his senior year, Williams isn’t even slotted to start. Aaron Williams is sliding back over to safety full time and the coaches also decided to move Joshua Kalu from corner to safety. That leaves Williams as one of the most experienced back-ups in the conference.
It’s not often that a player leads a team in a significant statistical category one year then loses his starting spot the next, but that seems to be the situation Williams finds himself in. Beyond that, he might not even be the first DB off the bench. JoJo Domann’s torn ACL certainly created more opportunities for Williams, but Antonio Reed has played a lot as well and is right there with Williams while redshirt freshmen Tony Butler and Marquel Dismuke look to be on the rise.
The tough thing about Williams is that part of what makes him such a playmaker also makes him difficult for coaches to put their full faith in. Williams had a pick-six last year against Wyoming where he was completely out of position, leaving a man open deep, yet Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen misread the play and threw the ball right into Williams’ hands thanks in part to some pressure from Williams’ teammates. Williams has a knack for finding the ball, but his lack of discipline could make him a liability when he’s not picking off passes.
If Williams can find a way to harness that playmaking ability and use it within Bob Diaco’s system, he could earn his way back onto the field and be a real weapon for the Blackshirts. There aren’t many deeper positions on the roster than safety, and with the importance Diaco places on the position in his defense, that is a great sign for the Huskers.
The Grab Bag
- The Omaha World-Herald’s Lee Barfknecht wrote a summer primer for the Nebraska basketball team pointing out reasons for optimism and pessimism as well as questions that are still up in the air. Barfknecht made some good points, but I also feel he went too far with some of his assertions, including that Tai Webster switching to a vegan diet in January was a reason for his late season slump and that making that change was something to hold against Webster. Barfknecht highlighted “far better intangibles” as a reason for optimism, but we have no way of knowing if that is actually true until the bullets start flying and the team has to face some adversity.
- Creighton basketball revealed its nonconference schedule for the 2017-18 season on Tuesday, and the Huskers will head to Omaha on Saturday, Dec. 9.
- It is watch list season in college football and so far four lists have been released. From the Big Ten, 15 players made the Bednarik Award list, 11 made the Maxwell Award list, seven the John Mackey Award one and six the Rimington Trophy list. Only two teams from the conference have yet to have a player named: Nebraska and Purdue.
- New video board!
- Nebraska wide receivers coach is putting in some offseason work imparting knowledge.
- Nebraska isn’t just a football school, it’s a futbol one as well.
- A recent study suggests those that play football in high school do not face a heightened risk of CTE.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.