Missouri did it. They actually did it.
It’s hard to overstate the impact of a commitment like Williams Nwaneri’s. The only Rivals 5-star recruits to sign with the Tigers are Blaine Gabbert (2008), Sheldon Richardson (2009), Dorial Green-Beckham (2012) and Luther Burden (2022). Those are program altering talents.
You can soon add Williams Nwaneri to that list.
The Lee’s Summit North defensive end made it official in mid-August. I’ve been waiting for the right time to break down the impact because, frankly, the in-season results suddenly took the front seat.
It’s time to break it all down.
Where he fits: Nwaneri is a massive human being. The high school senior is listed at 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds. He lines up everywhere along Lee’s Summit North’s defensive line. He wins from the interior with quickness. He wins from the edge by converting speed to power. When he’s not batting balls down at the line of scrimmage, he’s getting in passing lines with his absurd arm length. A man that big should not be able to move that well. This is what a game-changing talent looks like along the defensive line. I’m not sure I can remember a skill-set like this for a Missouri defensive linemen in recent memory. The closest comparison might be Kony Ealy, but Nwaneri is a more fluid mover than Ealy was.
#Mizzou is getting a franchise-type player along the defensive line with No. 1 overall prospect Williams Nwaneri, @CharlesPower told me.— Keegan Pope (@bykeeganpope) August 14, 2023
And his NFL player comp is none other than Chiefs' All-Pro DL Chris Jones.
Story: https://t.co/zwFxlqieRG pic.twitter.com/BBKNxz5vhw
The truth is Nwaneri will line up everywhere along Missouri’s defensive line. If he didn’t have this kind of athleticism, I would assume he eventually kicks inside. I’m not sure that will be the case for him. His speed off the edge might allow him to continue playing off the edge on early downs, and kick inside on third downs. Regardless of how the Tigers decide to use him, he’s going to be a threat.
When he’ll play: This is the kind of player that gets on the field early (and potentially often). That would be the case no matter Missouri’s depth chart at defensive
end. It becomes even more likely with the current depth chart at the edge position. The Tigers will lose Darius Robinson after the season. Johnny Walker Jr. Joe Moore, Nyles Gaddy and Austin Firestone will all have eligibility remaining. Outside of Walker, I’m not sure any of the rest will be able to keep Nwaneri off the field.
It’s worth noting the Tigers could — and probably should — add talent to this mix via the transfer portal in the offseason. Either way, I would anticipate Nwaneri getting on the field as a true freshman. That’s what happens with this kind of talent, especially at a place like Missouri.
What it all means: The Tigers added an extremely talented player to the position where they most desperately needed it. If there’s been any criticisms of Nwaneri’s game, it’s that he sometimes appears to take plays off. That tends to be the criticism of players who look and play like Nwaneri; it was a conversation with Jadeveon Clowney, Myles Garrett and Kayvon Thibodeaux, too. Those guys were all freak athletes with insane height/weight/speed ability, much like Nwaneri.
The anticipation for a player like this is off the charts. It should be. The Tigers got a good one. Now they need to make sure they hold onto him until the early signing period, and hopefully he won’t be the last five star we get to discuss in this class. More on that next week. Until then, enjoy your first five star in the 2024 class. He’s a darn good one.