Ohio State’s 2016 recruiting class – the country’s fourth-ranked class – featured 25 signees from 11 states and many of those players are expected to contribute to the Buckeyes on-field success early in their careers.
Join Landof10.com as we introduce you to the next wave of Buckeyes in our Young Bucks series, focusing today on one of two running backs Ohio State signed in February, Antonio Williams.
Who is Antonio Williams?
For much of the 2016 recruiting cycle, Ohio State had not one, not two, but three potential running backs – including the country’s top-ranked back, New Jersey’s Kareem Walker, committed. When Walker committed, a thousand miles away in New London, N.C., Antonio Williams was a North Carolina Tar Heels commitment who intended to stay home and play for his home state, though he changed his mind and eventually committed instead to the University of Wisconsin and their history of big-time running backs.
- Height: 5-foot-11
- Weight: 210
- Number: 26
- Hometown: New London, N.C.
- High School: North Stanly
- Composite Ranking: 7 (RB)
- High School Highlights
As George Hill re-opened his recruitment and as Kareem Walker’s pledge got less and less solid – including his plans to make an official visit to Michigan in September of 2015 – conversation between Williams and Ohio State picked up. Buckeyes running backs coach Tony Alford had maintained contact with Williams all the while, but it wasn’t until the country’s seventh-ranked tailback set an October unofficial visit to Ohio State that things really ramped up. Days before his trip to Ohio State, rumors began to swirl that Williams would replace Kareem Walker as the go-to running back for the Buckeyes’ 2016 class and he made that official when he committed to Ohio State just one day after he first took steps on Columbus soil.
What does he bring to Ohio State?
Antonio Williams fits the mold of a typical Ohio State running back, and it’s evident from the first moment you see him. He’s big and he’s got the low center of gravity that you’d see in some of the Buckeyes classics: Raymont Harris, Pepe Pearson, Joe Montgomery, Antonio Pittman, and Carlos Hyde among them.
More than that, Williams brought with him a hunger to contribute as a freshman, which is why he enrolled at Ohio State just about three months after he committed to the Buckeyes. Just days after the Buckeyes spring game in April, Alford spoke glowingly of his young running back.
“The young kid, Antonio Williams, he had a nice spring,” Alford said in April. “He came in and worked hard and did a nice job as a young player only being here for a couple months.”
In fact, for Alford, he was comfortable suggesting that Williams was ahead of the proverbial curve for a freshman.
“I would say that’s probably a fair assessment,” the second year Ohio State assistant said when asked if Williams was more mature than expected. “But still there’s a long way to go. He’s a conscientious kid and he’s a pleaser. He wants to do exceptionally well, he’s very hard on himself and a perfectionist by nature. We’ve got some work to get done, but he’ll work at it.”
Will he play as a freshman?
After the recent dismissal of fifth-year senior Bri’onte Dunn, the odds of Williams seeing the field as a freshman went from “maybe, but probably not” to almost certainly “yes, he’ll play.”
Urban Meyer, when asked about Williams before Dunn’s incident, suggested as much.
“The young guy is earning some respect around here,” Meyer said of his freshman. “He might be the first guy to get that stripe off out of that whole group because he’s a tough nut.”
It’s that toughness that will lend to Williams’ early playing time. He’s done the right things on and off the field since his arrival and was one of just three freshman to start the 2016 practice schedule with the upperclassmen, an honor that is earned, not given. At Ohio State in 2016, the opportunity to play will be there for anyone who does the right things.
“He’s relentless,” Buckeyes strength coach Mick Marotti said in April. “He’s a high-effort guy and a high-character guy.”