The 90 Illini #11: Isaiah Williams
You have currently viewed 1 story this month.
IlliniBoard now offers two free stories per month, for more please subscribe.
I've been deep in the bunker the last 48 hours. Probably not the best timing here, what with camp going on and the preview coming out soon, but the last 48 hours were spent with my "consultants" going over the changes coming for Year Two on IlliniBoard. Maybe "changes" isn't the right word. "Tweaks" coming to the site. Improvements. If only for a brief moment, this felt like an actual career with notebooks and a dry erase board and ending the second day with hand-written "action items."
So I think I'm a day behind on The 90 Illini. Which is a little bit better than the last few years where I was writing "here's 10 through 1" on the day of the first game. I also have other things to write (and a newsletter to publish) and the preview to finish, but getting together with my "consultants" (I put it in quotes because it's two friends who understand business ten times better than I do) was extremely helpful for me. I feel like I just vacuumed my brain and now I feel like every thought is walking on clean carpet.
Let's take that brain and talk about Isaiah Williams at wide receiver.
11. Isaiah Williams
Uniform number: 1
Year in school: Redshirt Freshman (without the Covid waiver, 3 years to play 3; with the Covid waiver, technically 4 years to play 4)
Height: 5'-9" -- Weight: 180 lbs.
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
High School: Trinity Catholic HS
Five best offers: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, LSU
Tom Cruise rating:
2020 statistics: Started 4 games at quarterback. 26 for 63, 393 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT. Rushed for 389 yards and 1 TD on 63 carries.
You probably know all of this already, but we might as well go back and recap everything.
First off, his name is Isaiah Williams. Perhaps the top recruit in the 2000's was named Isiah Williams and perhaps the top recruit in the 2010's was named Isaiah Williams. I'm already on the lookout for Isaiah Williams 3.0 this next decade.
Secondly, he had offers from everyone, but those offers were ATH offers. Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and others all wanted him as either a wide receiver or a defensive back. Illinois was offering an opportunity to play quarterback. And, after a redshirt year in 2019 where he played in four games but kept his redshirt, he did get that opportunity in 2020, starting four games at QB. Now, the offense has changed, and the new coach has convinced him that the best place he can help the team is at wide receiver.
Feels like this is the best way to contextualize this:
- Isaiah Williams was 14th in the Big Ten in rushing yards last season. 14 Big Ten teams and he was 14th in rushing yards.
- The top five guys on the rushing yards list got their yards in 8, 8, 8, 8, and 7 games. Williams only had six games to compile his yards because he missed Purdue and Minnesota due to contact tracing.
- Williams also only had one carry in the Wisconsin game and three carries in the Nebraska game (Brandon Peters started). Total rushing yards in those two games: 19 yards.
- Drop those 19 yards and he drops one spot behind Justin Fields to 15th in the conference in rushing yards for 2020. 15th in rushing yards using only the four games where he started.
- I need to say that again because you missed it. Isaiah Williams started four games, missed two, had one game canceled, and had 19 total yards in the other two. In just those four games, he was 15th in the conference in rushing yards.
So basically, Williams is coming off a 1,200-yard season on the ground. Sure, that was just under 400 yards in four games, but if it was 12-game season, that's 1,200 yards. In terms of explosive seasons, had he played a full season, that's maybe second only to 2018 Reggie Corbin in the last decade?
No, he didn't light the world on fire at QB. A 41.2% completion percentage won't get it done in the modern college game. But I say all of that to point out that he's a dynamic playmaker. Someone who can turn 8 yards into 64 yards. Someone who set the single-game rushing mark for an Illini QB in his first-ever start.
Now he's a wide receiver. And if we can get him the ball, he can do some of that "64 yards instead of 8 yards" stuff out on the edges. All that needs to happen is A) he needs to get open and B) we need to get him the ball.
Both of those, right now, are in question. If they weren't, I'd have him #1 on this list. Gaining separation will be everything for him. If he can't cut sharply and create two feet of separation from a cornerback, Brandon Peters won't be able to throw him the ball. He'll be this dynamic playmaker with only 19 chances to show that dynamic playmaking because he's not getting the ball in space.
If he can create that separation (and if Brandon Peters can get him the ball), look out.