August 21, 2007

Key Red Raiders: #7 Brandon Williams

A huge number of factors go into the success of any football team. In this series, we will be examining 25 of them. More specifically, we will be taking a reverse-order look at the 25 players who will be most crucial if the Texas Tech Red Raiders are to have a successful 2007 season, however that may be defined.

This is not, however, a list of the best players on the team. Rather, this series takes into consideration the importance of a given position on the team, depth issues, experience and inexperience, and the historic strengths and weaknesses of Mike Leach's program. The results, therefore, may surprise many readers, and will hopefully spur spirited discussion and debate.

Brandon Williams: It is an old football adage that even an average quarterback can shred a good secondary if he's given ample time to throw the ball. The 2007 Texas Tech Red Raiders will have a good secondary. But will they be able to pressure the quarterback? If not, that excellent defensive backfield, the strength of the defense, may be all for naught.

And that is why sophomore defensive end Brandon Williams will be such an important component of the Tech football team. He will be relied upon to be the squad's pass rushing threat. If he fails to live up to his promise, if Williams cannot generate considerable heat on the opposing quarterback, then the Tech defense will forced to rely upon Plan B, and nobody knows if Plan B even exists.

In a freshman campaign that saw him surprise literally everybody with his play, Williams recorded 16 tackles and 3.5 sacks in limited playing time. Those numbers are not flabbergasting, but when one considers that nobody even gave the Fort Worth product a ghost of a chance of avoiding a redshirt season, they are not bad.

The 3.5 sacks were good enough to tie Jake Ratliff for third best on the team despite the fact that Williams played perhaps a quarter as many snaps as Ratliff, his projected partner as a starting defensive end for 2007. It is, of course, foolish to strictly extrapolate statistics from past performance, but if Williams does manage to quadruple his snaps and his sacks, that would result in 14 sacks for Williams this season. And were he to accomplish such a feat the Red Raider defense would be considerably better than it is currently projected to be. Keyunta Dawson, the man Williams replaces as rush end, after all, notched only six sacks in 2006.

Williams certainly possesses many of the raw tools to rack up a double-digit sack total. He's a solid six-foot-four and 245 pounds, and as a young sophomore with a fairly rangy frame, could certainly put on 20 pounds in the near future without losing speed or quickness. Williams is already strong and explosive, but with every additional week in the Tech weight program, stands to augment those traits. If he does, Williams will develop into a prototype pass rushing defensive end at the D-1 level.

But as mentioned above, the pressure is truly on Williams to perform at a high pitch. He is the team's only proven pass rusher (if 3.5 sacks in limited time as a true freshman constitutes proof), and short of heavy blitzing (anathema to the current defensive coordinator), or JUCO recruits Brandon Sharpe and/or Daniel Howard blowing the roof off, will be the pass rush magneto of the d-line.

It's all on him.


TOP 25 KEY PLAYERS:

7. Brandon Williams
8. Shawn Byrnes
9. Colby Whitlock
10. Marlon Winn
11. Kellen Tillman
12. Richard Jones
13. Brandon Carter
14. Clint Stoffels
15. Jake Ratliff
16. Chad Hill
17. Marlon Williams
18. Stephen Hamby
19. David Neill
20. Chris Parker
21. Jonathan Lacour
22. Alex Trlica
23. Edward Britton
24. Kobey Lewis
25. L.A. Reed




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