Ezekiel Elliott’s diversity is why Antonio Williams isn’t at Wisconsin
COLUMBUS, Ohio Antonio Williams lost his train of thought, so he let the 2014 national championship banner hanging above the indoor practice field in the Woody Hayes Center do the talking.
"Isn’t that crazy?" Williams asked. "To this day, it hits me every now and then like, ‘This is Ohio State. I play for the top running back university in the country right now.’ That’s how I feel. Being in this position, it’s amazing."
Remember how Williams was committed to Wisconsin for almost a year? It’s funny to think about now, especially when seeing candid moments when Williams is still in awe of Ohio State.
But at this point a year ago, Williams was committed to the Badgers and, in his head, on his way to the program best equipped to turn an elite level high school running back into an NFL Draft pick.
What changed? Here are five things to know about Williams and his recruitment:
1. If you remember back to Williams’ Ohio State recruitment, the intensity really picked up when former Buckeyes commit Kareem Walker started wavering in his decision. Walker wanted to take other visits including one to Michigan and that didn’t sit well with Ohio State’s coaching staff.
The idea was that Walker’s indecisiveness is what opened the door for Williams’ spot. Maybe it helped. But Walker who eventually signed with Michigan wasn’t the only reason.
Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford was pushing for a lot longer than that. And Alford’s persistence is what got Williams to give Ohio State a chance. "Coach Alford called me about five different times while I was committed to Wisconsin, and I just kept telling him, ‘No, no. I’m not very interested in Ohio State.’
"Then the fifth time came around, and I was like, ‘This has to be a sign.’ You don’t get a call from Ohio State five times over that period of time. So I decided to look into it, and as soon as I did, it was like, ‘This is it.’ "
2. Alford deserves the credit for getting Williams to open up to Ohio State, but former running back Ezekiel Elliott deserves the credit for why the running back became a Buckeye.
Williams fell in love with what he saw on the field when he started paying closer attention to Ohio State, and that made him question Wisconsin.
"I just felt like at Wisconsin I wouldn’t reach my full potential for what I want to be overall," Williams said. "I want to be that Ezekiel Elliott type player. Zeke will catch it out of the backfield, he’ll block, he’ll line up at receiver and run routes, and he’ll obviously run the ball tremendously.
"At the same time, at Wisconsin, it’s more, ‘Here, take the ball and go.’ I looked further into that, and the psychology department, which was my major, and I saw at Ohio State it was ranked higher. I just put a lot of thought in and weighed the pros and cons for both situations, and it wouldn’t have made sense for me to go to Wisconsin."
3. You’ve heard this a lot by now, but blocking is a huge aspect to playing the running back position at Ohio State. So it’s not shocking to hear Williams say that’s the biggest area he wants to improve.
"Pass blocking, definitely," Williams said. "I have improved so much from when I got here, but I feel like where I am out right now, at another university it would be OK. But the standard here at Ohio State is Ezekiel Elliott, you know what I mean? And I am not Ezekiel Elliott’s blocking style yet."
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4. Will Williams have a role this season? Urban Meyer always says that he wants to play freshman, and maybe this year he’ll remember that statement on Saturdays.
Williams is in a unique position because he’s a freshman in a spot at which Ohio State doesn’t have proven playmakers. Mike Weber is going to start at running back, and maybe Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson will get carries. But there’s a chance Williams could see the field this fall, especially considering he enrolled early and participated in spring drills.
Williams is mature about it, though. He said he isn’t ready yet.
"I think I can contribute to the team," Williams said. "I need to get a little more acclimated because before I put myself in the position to be able to contribute the way that I want to, I want to be 100 percent ready. This is a the top university. This is best place in the country. In order to step in and do that, I want to be the best."
5. Raekwon McMillan said Williams left an impression in the spring, but the running back learned a valuable lesson during: In college, it’s not always the smartest thing to try to run through defenders.
"It’s about picking your spots," Williams said. "But that’s just my style. I am a hard nosed guy. Give me the ball, and I’m going to get you some yards. It’s going to be hard earned yards. That’s how I do it"