40 Time: (pending Combine)
Hand: (pending Combine)
Arm: (pending Combine)
Wingspan: (pending Combine)
Projected Draft Position: 3rd – 4th
Before joining the Wolfpack, Duke Williams was a three-sport standout high school athlete who earned 12 varsity letters in his career in football, basketball and track and field. On the gridiron, Williams played both ways as a quarterback and defensive back and was the Northern Nevada Player of the Year as a senior. He was also a three-time all-state selection as a safety. [ link ]
As a track star, Williams was part of championship teams in the 4×100 relay that broke the state record at 41.34 seconds, and was ranked in the national top-10 in the triple jump.
After being recruited by USC, Washington, Boise State, UNLV and Fresno State, Williams chose Nevada because of his love for the program and in order to be close to home.
Williams played in 11 games as a true freshman in 2009, serving as a reserve in the secondary, getting quality time on special teams and finishing the season with 29 tackles. He was also suspended three times: once after being cited as a minor in possession of alcohol; another after being with a teammate who was caught stealing prior to the Hawaii Bowl; and another for getting in an altercation with a teammate. [ link ]
In 2010, Williams played in 13 games and started 10 of them as a sophomore. He finished third on the team with 74 tackles, while also recording 4.5 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.
Heading into the 2011 season, Williams was named preseason Second-Team All-WAC by Athlon and Phil Steele. He started all 13 games as a junior and finished third on the team with 78 tackles, six pass break-ups and an interception.
As a senior last season, Williams was coated in all-conference honors after being named to the preseason All-Mountain West Team. He would go on to register 106 total tackles (71 solo) on the year, along with eight pass break-ups and one interception. [ link ]
At his university-listed 6’1, 200 pounds, Williams has good size for the safety position and he packs a lot of strength in a compact, yet not limiting frame. Dating back to his days at Hug High School in Reno, Williams is a well-rounded athlete with good movement and agility. He’ll also surprise you with his quickness, helping to make up for some of his negatives on the field.
Depending on what you like in a safety, whether he be better against the run or better in coverage, Williams satisfies the mold. He’s a versatile defensive back that’s probably best-suited at strong safety, but who has the ability and skill set to play either spot.
Often times being described as a reckless football player can be a negative, leading to bad things on the field such as poor angles and bad pursuit. But in the case of Williams, he’s reckless in the sense that he’s willing to sacrifice his body to make a hit, plug a gap or make a receiver pay for his decision to cross the middle. He’s a fierce tackler that will not hesitate to lay the wood and he uses his entire body to do so.
The best part about it: Williams’ reckless style doesn’t compromise his tackling or technique. Sure, once in a while you’ll see a bad angle or an aggressive move that pushes him out of the play. But overall, Williams is a disciplined tackler. He has a good understanding of when to turn it on and when to stay fundamentally sound.
Right after a play in which Williams strikes down against a running back for a stop at the line, he’ll follow it with a square and disciplined tackle against a receiver in a one-on-one, open-field situation.
Williams’ speed is a benefit in coverage. And his acceleration even more so. Because Williams is a bit delayed in his read-and-react, his acceleration allows him to make up for lost steps, quickly catching up to an assignment underneath or tracking the ball in the air.
Physically, Williams can comfortably line-up anywhere on the field. Although he has the size and speed to hang with slot guys and tight ends, Williams appears best in deep coverage with space and time to read the ball. Given the opportunity, Williams can make a play and flip the field. He appears fluid in his hips and he can turn and run to cover the back end.
Williams’ versatility should be a hot commodity after the second round. He can play either safety spot, he has the tackling ability to come down and be effective in the box, he can drop into the deep zone and pose a threat, he can cover over a receiver off the line and he can blow the cleats off the opposition with reckless abandon. He has all the traits of a powering safety at the next level.
Some will be critical of Williams’ past and his run-ins over the course of his four-year college career. Others will respect his development as a man.
According to Williams, he’s changed for the better.
“It’s a complete 180,” Williams said of his progression from a freshman to a senior, “especially being around great people and being around guys who want to see me succeed. My faith has been stronger and I’ve become a better man. That just takes time. I’m glad I’ve gone through the things I’ve had to go through because it just makes you a better person.”