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Most Crucial Jayhawks 2016: No. 13 — DT D.J. Williams

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From the most experienced projected starter on the defense, Marcquis Roberts, to the least experienced our series goes.

From the deepest position on the defense to one with more question marks and less obvious depth at a position that relies more than any other on rotating players in and out of the game to keep them fresh.

Reminder: This is not a list of the 25 best players on this year’s team. That would be much easier to pinpoint and, although still key, would not exactly demonstrate the full value that each player has in regard to the 2016 season.

This is a list of the 25 players who need to have strong seasons in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance to compete.

Matt Tait and I came up with the list by each making our own list of 25 and then combining the results. We did the same thing for the last two years, but the amount of fresh faces made this list much tougher to put together.

Track the list every weekday at KUsports.com, where we’ll unveil the list one-by-one in reverse order. And, in case you miss some, be sure to check the links at the bottom of each entry for an up-to-date look at the list of 25.

Kansas defensive tackle D.J. Williams (91) lays out Texas quarterback Jerrod Heard (13) and forces a fumble during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015 at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin, Texas.

Kansas defensive tackle D.J. Williams (91) lays out Texas quarterback Jerrod Heard (13) and forces a fumble during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015 at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

13. D.J. Williams, So. Defensive Tackle

The Kansas coaching staff, then headed by Charlie Weis, understandably was excited to get a commitment from D.J. Williams out of the Lufkin, an industrial town in eastern Texas, located two hours northeast of Houston and three hours southwest of Dallas.

After all, Williams had a big frame, standing 6-foot-5 with broad shoulders and a thick body. Not only that, for what it’s worth, he was rated more favorably by recruiting services than most Kansas recruits. Rivals.com ranked him No. 38 in the nation among defensive tackles in the Class of 2014 and No. 78 among all recruits from the football-rich state of Texas. Plus, at various points during the recruiting process, Miami, Missouri and Oklahoma were wooing him.

Yet, once he arrived on campus and began the rigors of college football, from summer conditioning to fall camp to daily practices while wearing a redshirt, the buzz on Williams faded. At times, he looked a little overhelmed by the work load and breathed heavily quicker than some of his position mates during drills. At least outwardly, he didn’t exhibit a great deal of fire or drive. Some athletes need weekly games in order to break the monotony and rekindle the motor. Redshirts don’t have that luxury.

As the 2015 season progressed, so did Williams. He appeared in eight games last season, including the final seven. During a three-week stretch in the middle of the Big 12 season, he showed flashes of what made him a highly rated recruit. At Oklahoma Stte, he totaled a career-high three tackles and added two tackles the next week at home against national-title contender Okahoma. The following week, at Texas, he contributed the biggest play of his young career, a strip-sack.

Williams moves pretty well for a man who carries 300 pounds on his frame.

His potential will put him on the first team of the depth chart heading into fall camp, but he’ll need to bring consistent effort and energy in practice in order to stay there.

Sophomore Daniel Wise has one starting spot locked up and Williams will compete with juniors Jacky Dezir, in his second year at Kansas after a year of junior college, DeeIsaac Davis and Isi Holani, a pair of juco transfers.

Should Williams emerge as the most improved player on the defense, that would settle any uneasy feelings about depth at defensive tackle. He has the tools. It’s just a matter of whether he can put them all together in this, his third season in the program.

Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks of 2016:

No. 25 - OL Jayson Rhodes

No. 24 - CB Kyle Mayberry

No. 23 - OL Joe Gibson

No. 22 - WR Steven Sims, Jr.

No. 21 - DE Anthony Olobia

No. 20 - RB Denzell Evans

No. 19 - DE Damani Mosby

No. 18 - S Tyrone Miller

No. 17 - DB Tevin Shaw

No. 16 - OL Jordan Shelley-Smith

No. 15 - TE Ben Johnson

No. 14 - LB Marcquis Roberts

Comments

Dirk Medema 5 years, 5 months ago

Was Daniel Wise really so dominant that he should have a starting spot locked up? I certainly hope that Williams, Jacky Dezir, and JC transfers DeeIsaac Davis and Isi Holani push the heck out of him. It all starts up front, and we need more on both sides of the ball.

Kent Gaylor 5 years, 5 months ago

Lufkin is not southwest of Dallas. Try southeast.

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