Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio shares its 2006 game report on DeAngelo Williams facing Patrick Willis and Ole Miss.
2006 was the first year I published the Rookie Scouting Portfolio. One of my favorite backs in this rich class of talent was DeAngelo Williams, my No. 2 option behind Reggie Bush, who, like most, captured my imagination as the next Gale Sayers of the NFL.
I still remember watching Williams against Ole Miss and linebacker Patrick Willis, a player who repeatedly caught my eye during the game as an impressive prospect. It’s fun to look back at these older publications because the RSP has evolved so much.
In 2005-06, much greater care was given to writing the in-game scouting report and much less devoted to the overall analysis of the player. Nearly 15 years later, it’s the opposite case.
Player: DeAngelo Williams Date: 9/5/2005 Opponent: Mississippi
Overall Strengths: Williams is short, but he has a thick frame–especially his thighs. Built a lot like Emmitt Smith, but with breakaway speed. He led the nation in touchdowns last year (22) and second in the nation in all-purpose yards (2,230), rushing yards (1,948), and points (138). Williams has excellent moves and quickness. The variety of moves are impressive: giving and taking away a leg to the defender, spins, lateral jump cuts, and small cuts while moving at full speed. He is just as capable of being a one-cut runner as he is of making multiple moves. When running out of a single back set or I-formation, Williams is dangerous because he’s able to make cutbacks facing the defense head-on. Four of Williams’ best five runs of the day were from a single back set running forward to the LOS. He displayed stamina in the 4th quarter where he averaged 4 yards per carry for his last 10 carries of the day.
Overall Weaknesses: Williams is a bit more difficult to evaluate because he plays in an offense that spreads the field. The scheme dictates that Williams will receive the handoff as he’s going in motion towards the QB from a WR position. This means he’s closer to the line and heading East-West, rather than North-South on many running plays, and Williams gets less time to spot a hole or make effective cutbacks. Plus, the Memphis offense that was a top-10 offense from last year lost four of its five previous starters on the offensive line. There were at least three attempts where a defender was able to blitz into Williams’ direction without opposition. The Ole Miss team blitzed a safety on five running plays with Williams. There were at least 10 plays where a defensive lineman cleanly shed a lineman and greeted Williams in the hole or was completely unblocked by the offense. Although Williams didn’t a have a great yardage day, his talent was still clearly on display. Williams appears to take plays off when he doesn’t have the ball.
Power: Williams is deceptively powerful. He took an off-tackle play out of a full house backfield set and LB Patrick Willis–a pro prospect in his own right–went for a kill shot–leading with his head, but bounced off Willams’ upper body. After this hit, Williams gained two more yards on the play. On a 25-yard run in the second quarter, Williams broke two arm tackles with ease. He has won Memphis’ award for excellent performance in the weight room–two years running. He runs with power because of his low to the ground, strong in the thighs, and fast. He uses a stiff arm frequently, but his arms appear short and it affords Williams the opportunity to gain extra yards.
Ball Handling: Williams runs the ball in either hand. The stat sheet doesn’t credit Williams with a fumble, but on a 3rd down swing pass to open the third quarter, Williams clearly fumbled the ball when three defenders converged on the RB and one was able to knock the ball loose as he was going down. Williams did have the ball locked away, but it was a good hit. This actually would have been the first fumble of his college career (768 carries total). Although he fumbled this ball, he did a good job keeping the ball close to his body throughout the game.
Elusiveness: Williams makes little moves to veer away from on-coming defenders with the angle. On the second run of the game, he made a 3rd defender miss by dipping just slightly to the outside. Although he slipped and only gained 4 yards, the move prevented him from losing yardage. The third running play was for at best a 1-yard gain, but as he ran towards the middle of the line he made a lateral move that ruined the DE’s angle. He forced the DE off balance and then made a second move to elude an LB on a run-blitz with a clean shot at him. Williams has an array of start-stop, lateral, and spin moves. He possesses excellent footwork and will make one cut to get into the hole. As much as Williams is an instinctive runner, he also understands how to read and react to the defense.
Balance: Williams has excellent balance. On his first reception of the game, he was hit in the thigh and spun away from the tackle to gain a first down.
Speed: Williams clearly has first-round caliber speed and quickness. His second run was bounced to the outside for a gain of four yards. During this run, he outran an LB and safety that were unblocked on the perimeter. One of the quickest backs I’ve seen in this year. He gets to full speed very quickly and few backs are as dangerous in open space. In the third quarter, Williams took a handoff out of the shotgun formation. The blitzing OLB got into the backfield untouched and was within a step of Williams as he took the ball from the QB. Williams moved so quickly out of the way, the OLB could only lightly touch his leg. Williams made a second move to make the converging DL miss, too. Although tackled for a loss, the play was amazing to watch for his moves. With better blocking from the offensive line and Williams is capable of huge gains on any play.
Blocking: His only blocking assignment was at the end of the 2nd quarter. Williams made the correct read and initiated contact with the defender. He didn’t deliver an aggressive hit, but he did wall off the defender. Williams does not look for opportunities to make blocks if he is not play side of the ball, nor does he finish out fakes. He’ll slow to walk or standstill if he is not play side. The RB was a lead blocker on an end around in the 4th quarter and he dove at the defender’s feet–this won’t work in the NFL, but it did open up space for the WR. Former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie complemented Williams on this play, but it wasn’t that effective of a cut block.
Vision: Williams effectively showed he understands what the defense tries to do against him. In the second quarter, Williams recognized the safety blitz. The defender timed his run blitz perfectly, but Williams’ made one small cut back inside and the safety completely missed. Williams gained six yards.
Receiving and Routes: Williams is consistently lined up as either a slot receiver or an outside receiver in this offense. Although they send him in motion before the snap to receive handouts out of this set, he also runs pass routes. On the second play of the game, Williams was clearly the primary option, but he was well-covered. The QB wound up sacked and injured for the rest of the year. On 3rd and 7 on the second drive of the first quarter, Williams lined up in the slot and ran a crossing pattern. He caught the ball and spun off an attempted tackle for the first down. Williams did a nice job getting separation on the defender in coverage. He cut across well enough to be ahead of the defender on the throw, but also kept a nice amount of depth between him and the defender so he could get the angle as he turned upfield. The Ole Miss defensive actually double covered Williams on a few routes in the game. In the 4th quarter, Williams ran a deep slant but the QB threw it too high. At the same time, he hesitated on his route just enough to make the catch more difficult.
Durability: Williams broke his leg last year, which may have been the reason he decided to return to Memphis rather than enter the NFL draft. While rehabilitating he did not get subjected to contact during training camp but worked exclusively at receiver. After his first reception, he fell awkwardly on his shoulder and had to leave for a few plays.
Character: There were some minor things I disliked about Williams’ game today when it came to giving 100% effort. He hesitated on a route that wound up as an incompletion. Although thrown a little high and Williams made a nice attempt, his initial give-up on the route was the problem. Williams never follows through on fakes, or pass routes not directed to him. Nor did Williams attempt to get downfield and make an open field block. He has to be careful not to give off signals that tip off the defense to the intent of the play.