2012 Recruiting: AJ Williams

Submitted by Brian on August 17th, 2012 at 11:16 AM

[Ed-Ace: Brian is out of pocket for the day, so you're stuck with me. Friday Recruitin' is coming this afternoon. If you're looking for updates on Ondre Pipkins, you can find those here.]

Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Matt Godin, DT Willie Henry, DT Ondre Pipkins, OL Ben Braden, OL Erik Magnuson, OL Blake Bars, and OL Kyle Kalis.

       
Cincinnati, OH – 6'6", 283
       

sendBinary[1]

Scout 4*, #27 OT(!), #225 overall
Rivals 3*, #22 TE, #26 OH
ESPN 3*, #36 TE, #38 OH
24/7 3*, #24 TE,#36 OH
Other Suitors Arkansas, Illinois, MSU
YMRMFSPA Reid Fragel
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Tim.
Notes Nothin'.

Film

Junior highlights:

I'm… like

Sycamore’s Williams an expert on holes

    …whoah.
    So, AJ Williams. The first thing you should know about AJ Williams is that the "holes" thing is about noodling:

Q: I heard you used the term, “noodling.” I’ve been watching this show “Hillbilly Hand Fishin’”….

A: “Hillbilly Hand Fishin’”! (says simultaneously)

Q: I’d like to see A.J. Williams on that show doing that.

A: It’s always been a dream of mine to go noodling. I can’t wait to do it. I have family down in Whitesville, Ga. We’ve got some pretty nice lakes down there. Hopefully, I can go down there and get some noodling done.

The second thing you should know is that noodling is sticking your hands into dank watery holes in the ground in search of catfish.

    The third thing you should know is that AJ Williams is an improbably-sized tight end, one who arrives in Ann Arbor the same height and two pounds lighter than tackle recruit Erik Magnuson, one who played right tackle for his high school team last year and did so well at it that Scout bumped him into their top 300 based on his potential there. He's here to block you, weakside defensive end who he has motioned over to. No, it doesn't seem fair, does it? Get used to it. It's called life.

Anyway, Williams's size makes him an awkward fit for TE at the services who continued to rank him there and his (still hypothetical but highly, highly probable) inability to scream down the seam for big yardage makes him a generic three star. But like a Matt Godin or a Martavious Odoms, just because you're not an NFL prototype doesn't mean you don't fill an important role.

    At Michigan, that role is obvious. His ESPN profile($) is almost exclusively about his blocking:

Williams is a big in-line tight end. He possesses good size for a high school tight end and is/can be big enough to be like an extra lineman on the field. … He is not the dominating drive blocker that his size might suggest… He is more a positional stick-and-stay type blocker. … You would like to see him throw his size around a little more and deliver more of an initial pop and better create push off the ball in the run game. He is adequate working up to second level and getting a piece of moving targets and needs to do a better job of utilizing angles.

And they're kind of meh about it, which fair enough. Scout's positive take is based on more recent data, though:

STRENGTHS

Nasty Streak

Power And Strength

Size

AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT

Technique

Williams showed as a senior that he is capable of being a high level offensive tackle. He could potentially stay at tight end, but we like his upside more if he were to stay at tackle. He's a strong kid who keeps his feet nicely and finishes his blocks. He does well when asked to move, pull, and work in the second level. He will have to continue to refine his technique and playing with better pad level.

Again you notice nothing about this "passing" business. This is because his high school team all but refused to do it. In 2010 Sycamore passed for 489 yards. In 2011 that fell to 300-some. Williams had two catches as a junior, and none as a senior (because he was an offensive lineman). So about the only thing we know about AJ Williams is how he is as a run blocker.

That is pretty good. He was first team All Ohio in the biggest division. Trieu said he had "rare physical tools" when Scout moved him up midseason, and an opposing coach talks about his prolific ability($) in two sports:

"The obvious thing that sticks out is it is so rare to be that big and be that athletic," Commins said. "A testament to his athletic ability is he was one of the leading scorers and rebounders in our conference during the basketball season and he just has terrific feet around the basket that are on display on the football field too.

"He's strong and powerful. I've seen him collapse an entire side of the defensive line, sealing off the outside running lane without any help from the tackle or guard on that side. He's a special talent."

Still, when TE coach Dan Ferrigno talks about him like so($)…

“He played tackle this year in an offense that runs the ball 97% of the time about so he wasn’t going to catch any balls but he’s a skilled athlete,” said Ferrigno. “You watch him, like I have, run up and down the basketball court and he is a skilled guy. Now, is he going to run like a wide receiver? No, but he’s got a role on our football team. He’s going to run well enough to do the things that we need to do in the passing game.”

…the three-star rankings make all the sense in the world. He'll have a role, he'll fill it ably, he will not ever garner any hype unless it's that of the "unsung hero" variety.

--------------------------------------

The tackle-or-TE question isn't much of one. Michigan's coaches have been adamant he is a tight end

AJ Williams. He is listed as a TE and I wondered about the “talk” that he will end up at tackle. I asked Funk. He was definitive. “He’s a tight end.” Funk said “he can catch the ball, but we really need help at the point of attack at the TE spot and he’s a guy who might have some opportunity to play right away.” The message was clear (a) we need help at TE now, especially in the run game, (b) we sure as hell hope this kid can step up there soon and (c) no, we don’t have any thought of moving him away from the TE spot.

…and the depth chart is even steelier with its assertions. Fifth-year senior Brandon Moore is the only scholarship TE on the roster other than the freshmen and Jordan Paskorz, who just flipped from defense. Classmate Devin Funchess is about sixty pounds lighter than Williams.

He has a role at TE that is obvious and will persist through his career. He may have one at tackle, too—it's just that the need is far more obvious further outside. Michigan is about to be flush with highly-rated tackles. If Williams ends up competing there it is because an unexpectedly high number of them washed out. It's a backup plan for the program.

Etc.: A little bit country. FAKE!

“I’ll catch some passes at Michigan,” Williams said. “I’ve got 4.8 or 4.9 speed in the 40.”

Why Reid Fragel? Fragel came out of Michigan when Rodriguez was running things; Michigan offered him as an OL and was told to talk to the hand. Now listed at 6'8", 298, OSU's moved him to tackle largely because they have no other options. He's played in every OSU game since his redshirt came off and has a total of 14 catches, about one every three games. Fragel is a lot taller (6'8") but, yeah, Reid Fragel.

Guru Reliability: Low. Healthy, but no one really has any idea how he'll do at TE and only Scout seemed to pay attention to his senior year.

Variance: Low. Seems like a lock for major playing time and will dutifully block guys trying to do things and catch a ball about every third game.

Ceiling: Low-plus. Is not Gronkowski. Maybe has some upside to surprise since he's been playing on a team that runs 97% of the time, though.

General Excitement Level: Moderate. I am very even keeled about this dude. He seems like a nice piece to have in the redzone and on short yardage. Very hard to see him ending up the sort of multi-level threat you'd like out of your hybrid offensive players, but can be a key bit of one of those multiple pro-style offenses that whipsaw you from GRAAAGGHHG 3TE SMASH to wispy three and four wide shotgun eeeeee. You know, like Stanford last year or SDSU under Borges.

Having that extra tackle TE gives you options; I remember OSU just saying "screw it" and lining up with literally an extra tackle for the large bulk of one of their streak games, and that going poorly for M. If he gives Michigan that option and provides a steady stream of quotes about noodling he'll be well worth the roster slot.

Projection: Won't redshirt. Will probably start the year behind Brandon Moore, but could pass him by midseason given how much Moore has played so far in his career. Will be used as an inline blocker and won't be catching much other than play action flares and short stuff, at least at first.

As his career develops it will be much the same thing. He'll be on the line, doing stuff and running outlet routes. There's a slight possibility he would move to tackle eventually, but unlike Fragel he's on a team that has been recruiting their pants off at that position and there probably won't be any need.

Comments

Harperbole

August 17th, 2012 at 11:20 AM ^

When I see a recruits only weakness is technique I get a real good feeling about what their potential is given our coaching staff. I'm willing to bet technique won't be an issue for AJ once he has a year or two in the program.

Smitdog6767

August 17th, 2012 at 12:08 PM ^

I can't wait to see this dude on the field with our soon-to-be revamped OL and a backfield of Shallman and (hopefully!) Green. I don't see 4th and short or goaline situations being any sort of problem. I've thought AJ was one of the more intriguing prospects from his class and is going to give us a dynamic we haven't seen in quite some time. Hooray for MANBALL!

ken725

August 17th, 2012 at 12:19 PM ^

GRAAAGGHHG 3TE SMASH to wispy three and four wide shotgun eeeeee. You know, like Stanford last year or SDSU under Borges.

I like the sound of that.

JeepinBen

August 17th, 2012 at 1:02 PM ^

I liked Borges's comment about how he "doesn't run an offense, he runs a selection of plays" because if you "name your offense, they can figure out how to stop it" (paraphrased)

Similar to Stanford and Boise State it sounds like we're going to have collections of plays, spread, power, WCO, etc. Sounds fun.

M-Wolverine

August 17th, 2012 at 12:27 PM ^

That almost makes it seem rational, till you get to the part about putting your hand inside the catfish's mouth to let it bite you to pull it out.

(Without the rest of Ace's sentence, my subject line sounds dirty now.)

And would we have ever gotten a Reid "Rock" Fragel reference before the MGoMockDraft? I think not. Already paying dividends.

 

Everyone Murders

August 17th, 2012 at 12:48 PM ^

The second thing you should know is that noodling is sticking your hands into dank watery holes in the ground in search of catfish.

The third thing to know about noodling (known in rural Louisiana as "logging") is that catfish are not the only things that inhabit holes under river banks and along shorelines.  Beavers, muskrats, snapping turtles, and various aquatic snakes like those areas too.  This is the sort of information that can be useful to someone seeking a position that occasionally requires you to catch a ball (since fingers are helpful for that).

That stated, I've always wanted to noodle too. 

CRex

August 17th, 2012 at 1:03 PM ^

This is actually one of the pickups I'm more excited about because of what it shows in terms of offensive philosophy.  For much of our I-Form stints in the 2000s the tight end was kind of an after thought.  People like Butler were on the field, they kind of did stuff, and you were aware you had some on the team. 

I liked seeing the decision early on to recruit what is basically an offensive specialist.  A tackle you can line up as an eligible reciever with some credibility that he might actually catch the ball.  So the defense can't just assume this is a pure run formation.  If you look at what we're bringing in we have Funchess as a catching TE, Williams as a blocking TE, Houma as a FB (with amazing speed for a FB), and Shallman as a H-Back.  Williams also has a lot of value as a specialist blocker.  If we face some version of Woodley, Graham or the like you send Williams out there with orders to neutralize him as opposed to trying to chip the LB with a RB which often fails (notice how often that worked against Graham, as in almost never).  

With the previous I-Form we had installed under DeBord we just loaded up a side and fed it to Hart or Perry, which worked well enough but when that got shut down, bad things happened.  Here I see a return to the I-Form, but where everyone coming out of the backfield or brought in to beef up the line can run and/or catch.  When we load Shallman, Williams, Houma, and Rawls into the game next year you can't just assume Rawls is getting it and everyone is convoying it up.  Looking at our roster it reminds me a lot of the Redskins rosters under Gibbs (first time around) where he had big TEs that would be added in to neutralize extremely dangerous linebackers and the H-Back was also heavily used.  Or just loading in a bunch of backs and then using motion to confuse the hell out of everyone before passing.  

flysociety3

August 17th, 2012 at 1:37 PM ^

6'6' 283 is not small AT ALL for a freshman OT, let alone a TE...

Regardless of what position he plays, he'll either be insanely enormous or just big by the end of his career here....