Nebraska has found its man to replace Bruce Read, as the Cornhuskers have hired Donté Williams to serve as cornerbacks coach. Williams just completed his first season as the defensive backs coach at Arizona under head coach Rich Rodriguez. Prior to 2016, Williams spent three seasons as San Jose State’s secondary coach and recruiting coordinator.
What does Williams bring to the table? Let’s take a quick look at the Huskers’ new coach.
Williams Arguably One of Top Recruiters in the Pac-12
Williams first started gaining fame as a recruiter in 2015, when he was serving as San Jose State’s defensive backs coach as well as recruiting coordinator. In that recruiting cycle, the Spartans finished with the 59th ranked class in the country, the highest ranked class that the Spartans had ever brought in. One of Williams’ top signees in that class was cornerback Taeon Mason, who committed to Williams and the Spartans over offers from USC, Notre Dame and Washington State. Another top prospect was Jeremy Kelly, who chose the Spartans over offers from Wisconsin, Washington and Utah.
To gauge Williams’ impact as a recruiter, just look at San Jose State’s recruiting class this season. In its first recruiting cycle without Williams, the Spartans have only managed to acquire 10 commitments and have a class that is ranked 106th in the nation.
In his first recruiting cycle at Arizona, Williams has kicked his game up a notch. Williams has landed nine of Arizona’s 26 commitments in the 2017 class. He has also been a key figure in helping the Wildcats reel in the No. 20 recruiting class in the nation. Arizona’s two top commits in the class (Greg Johnson, Nate Tilford) both list Williams as their primary recruiter. Both Johnson and Tilford have been Nebraska targets for an extended period of time, with the Huskers hosting both prospects on campus in the past year. What makes Williams’ recruiting efforts even more impressive is that he has landed nine commitments and two top 200 prospects despite the Wildcats stumbling to a 3-9 record this season.
Now that Nebraska has this top recruiter on staff, Williams may be able to help flip longtime Husker targets Tilford and Johnson, giving Nebraska a pair of quality prospects at positions of need.
Connections Galore in the Golden State
Williams has landed a total of 50 commitments since he began coaching at San Jose State in 2013, all 50 of those commitments have come from the state of California. He has shown the ability to consistently win recruits from the most talented areas of the state, evidenced by him landing several prospects from the Los Angeles, Fresno and Sacramento areas.
Williams also has solid connections in the junior-college scene at California, as he spent two seasons as a junior-college assistant, one year each at El Camino College and Mt. San Antonio College. The California junior college landscape is always full of talent and having an ‘in’ on that talent will be a tremendous asset for the Huskers going forward.
Williams Brings Infectious Energy to the Practice Field
Need a good example of Williams’ energy? Just watch this five-minute video of him coaching at Arizona.
Williams brings tremendous energy to the practice field. He also brings considerable credibility to the table, being a quality defensive back at Idaho State during his playing days and a successful coach at San Jose State. Even more so, Williams worked for the Seattle Seahawks as an intern in 2012, working with star defensive backs Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman on a daily basis.
In terms of coaching style, Williams has many similarities with Nebraska wide receiver coach Keith Williams, as both are high energy coaches that take a very hands-on approach to teaching how to play their position. His coaching style lends itself well to special teams, an area of the game that puts more of a focus on hustle and athleticism as opposed to making the perfect scheme.
Landing 5-Stars at Nebraska
Nebraska has been chasing Joseph Lewis and Darnay Holmes for almost two years now. In fact, it would be the first time since 2005 that the Huskers landed two 5-stars in one class if it happens.
Williams is currently the lead recruiter for Arizona with both of those prospects and his efforts have helped Arizona stay in the mix for both prospects despite the Wildcats 3-9 record. Adding Williams to the coaching staff gives Nebraska another recruiter that both prospects have a close relationship with, which bolsters their chance to land the 5-stars.
This is a huge hire by head coach Mike Riley, as it gives Nebraska yet another elite recruiter on its staff. There are still questions regarding his hire, like how he will work with Stewart and what will happen to Tavita Thompson. No question is too great to pass up on the recruiting ability and connections to California that Williams brings to the table though.
Nebraska will shuffle its defensive staff a bit with this hire. Stewart spent 2016 focusing mainly on the cornerbacks while Mark Banker coached the safeties. Stewart will now handle the safeties, while Williams takes over at cornerback and with Nebraska’s nickel and dime backs. This allows Banker to go back to being the CEO of the defense.
Ultimately, this is a tremendous hire by Riley. He found a replacement for Read that will bring enthusiasm both on the field and on the recruiting trail. That will make him a hit with both Nebraska players and fans.