2015 New York Jets first round selection Leonard Williams was one of the more prolific players on the college football platform in 2014. Few expected him to be available past the top five picks, as he is regarded as a game changing defender who can step in the trenches instantly.
So what makes Williams so good? Where does he win? Does it all translate to the NFL, where offensive linemen will be longer, faster, and more athletic? Let’s take a look at the National University Holiday Bowl, the last game of Williams’ college career…
Strength #1: Length, light feet and elusiveness
Most 6’5, 300+ pound athletes do not possess the agility combined with length that Williams does. The way he glides by offensive linemen is very reminiscent of Sheldon Richardson’s film from his days at Missouri.
The right tackle makes an aggressive attempt to gain leverage and lock up Williams. He quickly swims over the pass protector and glides to his left for a free run at the quarterback.
Later in the game, the right tackle chooses a toned down approach in terms of attacking Williams. This time, Leonard takes him to the outside with a quick step and swim move that gives him a free run through the C gap at the quarterback. This forces a bad throw directly into the hands of a USC defensive back.
Williams uses his hands quickly here to avoid the interior blocker. He plays very skinny when shooting the gap and explodes towards the quarterback, finishing the play for a sack.
Strength #2: Interior power and versatility
After showcasing Williams’ ability as a finesse rusher, here is a look at his ability to be a power rusher:
Williams is a stand up rusher in this alignment, enabling him to drive with lower power to get into the pocket. Once again, the quarterback is forced to deliver the ball early with the 6’5 (possessing 34 5/8′ arms) Williams in his face.
It’s a vital 3rd and 1 for Nebraska and the Trojans’ defense is ready for the run. Williams’ is an impressive pass rusher, but he displays his awareness and versatility on this play as a top notch run stuffer as well.
Strength #3: Motor and raw strength/ability to beat double teams
Plays in this game where Williams was contained or beat were few and far between in this game. Even when an offensive lineman gained leverage against him, he uses his raw power to drive him backward:
Nebraska’s protection here is designed to double team Williams. He once again uses a swim move to blow by the right guard off of the snap. The center locks on right away, but Williams drives him backward into the pocket. This forces the quarterback to make an escape attempt, ultimately breaking down the 2nd and long.
Follow Connor Rogers: @CRogers_NFL