Jordan Thompson Jared Thomas Joe Gaziano Trent Goens Nathan Fox Simba Short John Moten Cameron Green Adam Lemke-Bell Tommy Vitale Montre Hartage Flynn Nagel Charlie Fessler Trae Williams Jelani Roberts Alonzo Mayo Steven Reese Andrew Otterman Lloyd Yates Jacob Murray
Following a relatively quiet offseason, Northwestern's football program will welcome members of its 2015 recruiting class to the program on Feb. 4 for National Signing Day. Even with de-commitments from some of the Wildcats' top targets, Pat Fitzgerald and co. still managed to put together a solid class. As of now, Northwestern's crop of new talent ranks 47th nationally, according to 247 Sports, the same rank they had last year. We'll be putting out player capsules like these in the lead up to National Signing Day so you can learn more about this new bunch of Wildcats.
POSITION: Running Back/Cornerback/Safety
HOMETOWN: The Plains, OH
HIGH SCHOOL: Athens High School
247 COMPOSITE RATING: ★★★ (.8367)
NATIONAL RANK: 1219
POSITION RANK: 95
STATE RANK: 55
OTHER OFFERS: Akron, Ohio, Toledo
MORE: 247 Profile | Hudl | Twitter
While Urban Meyer is occupied battling Nick Saban down in the Bible Belt, Pat Fitzgerald may have just snuck right into Meyer's backyard and dug up a gem. Trae Williams, Athens' High School's running back/cornerback playmaker, committed to the Wildcats recently, on Jan. 18. Jim Tressel used to win Big Ten championships by keeping players like this in-state and Meyer may wake up one day soon and realize the grave mistake he made in letting Williams get away. Williams was originally committed to Ohio University, before an official visit to Evanston in early January swayed him enough to reopen his recruitment process.
In only three high school seasons, Williams racked up over 5,000 total rushing yards on 547 attempts, good for an average of 9.9 yards per carry, an absolutely astounding figure. He also scored almost 100 rushing touchdowns, finishing his career with 96, including 44 in his senior year alone. Plus, based on his Twitter, we can certainly deduce he already possesses an incredibly high football IQ:
The team that scores more than the other team.. will win this game. That's all I'm saying— Saint Williams (@yaboytrae) January 13, 2015
As we'll be able to see in the highlight video below, Williams is on another plane than many of the players he shares the field with. He simply looks bigger and stronger and won't easily be brought to ground. He can accelerate past the safeties after plowing through the linebackers. While this won't be necessarily replicable in the bigger and more athletic Big Ten, he demonstrates patience running the ball and uses his blockers well. He also utilizes the cut back effectively, something he should be able to bring with him to Evanston.
And we haven't even touched on his defense yet. It's not clear at the moment which side of the ball Williams will be contributing from for Pat Fitzgerald, but if he ends up at cornerback or safety, rest assured that he will be a harbinger of teeth-shattering hits that will make opposing wideouts uneasy about coming across the middle on him.
There's no telling where Williams will end of on the depth chart his freshman year. He will probably end up redshirting as a freshman so he can focus on adding a little bulk to his frame and learning the nuances of whatever position Fitzgerald chooses to put him in. The Wildcats already have Justin Jackson, and have plenty of depth behind him.
Therefore, the most likely spot for Williams is in the defensive backfield. A team can never have too many cornerbacks or safeties, especially one like Williams with a propensity for finding the ball and making a play on it. Safety is probably the best bet.
Many sites dedicated to recruiting lauded Northwestern's late pickup of a player with such potential, and while the Ohio Bobcats must be disappointed to lose what was considered the "crown jewel" of their 2015 recruiting class, their loss is Northwestern's gain.