Missouri has been searching far and wide for defensive end production. That’s been a theme since the moment Eli Drinkwitz arrived on campus. If you can’t rush the passer with four up front, you aren’t going to be very productive as a defense. We’ve frankly seen some of those pitfalls this season.
The headliner addition to the Tigers’ defensive line in the upcoming recruiting class is 5-star Williams Nwaneri, but he’s not alone. Mizzou is also adding 3-star defensive end Jaylen Brown, 3-star defensive tackle Justin Bodford and also 3-star defensive end Elias Williams.
Let’s talk a bit about Williams. The Hudson, Florida native chose Missouri over reported offers from Alabama, Florida State, LSU, Miami and Tennessee, among others. He earned dozens of offers after producing 51 tackles (13.5 for loss), 2 forced fumbles and 7 sacks and 29 quarterback hurries last season. His team is off to a 6-0 start this year in class 2A football in Florida.
He seems to really enjoy football!
Let’s take a look at who Williams is as a player, and how he fits into the Tigers’ future plans along the defensive line.
Where he fits: Williams has a listed height and weight of 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds on the recruiting services, but he lists himself at 270 pounds on Twitter. My guess is the truth is somewhere in-between. Either way, he likely fits as either a bigger defensive end in the Darius Robinson mold, or he could eventually kick inside as an interior rusher.
One thing that immediately pops off the screen when watching Williams is his explosion. He has some serious pop in his hands, and he knows how to use it. It’s worth noting he’s doing this at a lower level of competition in Florida, but the skills are there if he hones his skills at the next level. That’ll be the job of the coaching staff.
When he’ll play: This is impossible to say with any certainty, but my guess is it could be an extended runway before we see serious playing time for Williams at Missouri. He certainly has the size and strength to translate to the next level, but the competition jump is going to be something fierce compared to what he saw in high school. For some guys, that’s not an issue. For others, it takes some time to adjust.
Defensive line is one of those positions that tends to take longer than others. I wouldn’t expect anything significant the first year or two on campus, and the hope is he can develop the way Johnny Walker Jr. did as a big-time contributor by year three or four.
What it all means: Missouri added another big body with serious athleticism potential to its defensive line. Blake Baker loves to add athletes, and he believes in his staff’s ability to get extract their full potential on the football field. It’s a model that has worked at other programs around the country, and it’s something that has shown to be effective thus far at Mizzou. The Tigers are adding one headliner to the defensive line in this year’s recruiting class. It will be fun to see which of the other defensive end recruits ultimately break through and force their way into the rotation in the coming years.