Welcome to an ongoing series here at Land-Grant Holy Land — Freshman Focus. The summer months are rapidly approaching as we anxiously await the beginning of preseason camp, when this year’s crop of Buckeyes will be back hard at work preparing for the 2021 campaign. That being the case, now is a great time to introduce you to Ohio State’s incredibly talented freshman class. Each edition of Freshman Focus will highlight one of the newest Buckeyes, and will hopefully provide a glimpse at what they will bring to the team in the coming years.
Today’s Freshman: Tyleik Williams.
The defensive ends usually get all of the love on the defensive line, but keeping strong up the middle is equally if not more important even if those guys don't fill up the stat sheet. With Tommy Togiai off to the NFL and Haskell Garrett surely heading the same way after this season, it was critical that Ohio State add some defensive tackles to the roster, and they did just that with two DT commits in the class — one of which being Tyleik Williams.
Williams comes to Columbus by way of Manassas, VA as the nation’s No. 13 DT prospect and the No. 164 player in the 2021 class overall. As the No. 6 player in his home state of Virginia, the Buckeyes did quite well for themselves in the Commonwealth, also obviously landing the No. 2 player in the state in five-star running back TreVeyon Henderson. Williams is the second-highest rated DT in Ohio State’s class, joining Ohio native Mike Hall.
Williams was a highly sought-after prospect coming out of high school, racking up a whopping 31 offers for his services, including from some of the nations biggest names such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Penn State and USC. In June of 2020 Williams dropped his top six, which included Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, UNC, Virginia Tech, and of course Ohio State. It wasn’t too long after that, in late August, that Williams dropped his well put together commitment video announcing himself as a member of the Buckeyes’ 2021 class.
A product of Unity Reed high school, Williams stands at 6-foot-3, 330 pounds, and as you can see from his commitment video, possesses a tremendous combination of speed and athleticism to go along with his obvious strength at his size — all necessary components to be an elite defensive tackle at the next level. As a junior, Williams helped lead the Raiders to the Virginia Class 6 playoffs, earning a first team All-State selection for his personal efforts which included 47 total tackles and 3.5 sacks. He also earned himself a spot in the Army All-America Bowl.
As you can see in his junior highlight tape, Williams did a little bit of everything along the school’s defensive line, playing both outside and inside as he showcased his skillset both rushing the passer and shutting down the opposing run game.
The state of Virginia has been churning out some really good players in recent years, and Ohio State is clearly trying to make their presence felt in the region. After landing a pair of players from Virginia in the 2018 class in Teradja Mitchell and K’Vaughan Pope, they went a few years between commitments in the area before landing both Henderson and Williams in 2021. They're hoping they can parlay some of that previous success into landing some big time Virginia natives in the 2022 class, like five-star OT Zach Rice and four-star LB Shawn Murphy.
As a bit of an under-the-radar prospect in the 2021 class, Williams has earned some mid-to-late round NFL Draft projections with still a ton of time for improvement before even playing a snap of football at the collegiate level. Here is what 247Sports national recruiting analyst Brian Dohn had to say of Williams’ outlook:
“Excellent frame with lean build. Long and athletic in space. Can easily add 30 pounds. Explodes at snap. Covers ground quickly in first three steps. Impressive body control for size. Runs well and can re-direct down line of scrimmage. Disengages quickly and locates ball carrier well. Good tackler. Has to play with lower pad level. Adding strength in the lower and upper body integral to play inside. Possesses good technique but must refine moves. Continued development with hand usage important. Multi-year starter at Top 20 program. Day 3 NFL draft potential.”
Williams is joining a defensive tackle group at Ohio State with a bunch of unknowns. Outside of Haskell Garrett, who will without a doubt be a starter in 2021 after being one of the Buckeyes’ best overall defensive players in 2020, the room features a bunch of guys with a ton of potential but not a lot of results. Many expect Taron Vincent, a former five-star prospect, to finally have his breakout season in Columbus, but injuries have severely hampered his development. The team also has a few guys that have shown flashes in limited playing time, including Antwuan Jackson and Jerron Cage.
Ultimately, the door isn’t entirely shut on Williams getting at least a little bit of playing time this season, and will almost certainly see the field in blowouts. Nobody has really proven themselves to be an everyday starter at the position outside of Garrett, and while Williams will be behind some of the underclassmen with an extra year under their belt like Ty Hamilton, Jacolbe Cowan and Darrion Henry-Young, a strong showing this offseason could potentially find himself on the two-deep. It is probably unlikely, as he also has to battle against fellow freshman Mike Hall, but regardless of how much playing time he gets in year one, Williams will be a player to lookout for along that defensive front down the road.