Friday, July 11, 2014

2014 Season Countdown: #45 A.J. Williams

A.J. Williams (#84) with Devin Funchess
Name: A.J. Williams

Height: 6'6"
Weight: 263 lbs.
High school: Cincinnati (OH) Sycamore
Position: Tight end
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #84
Last year: I ranked Williams #28 and said he would be the starting tight end with 2 catches for 20 yards. He started six games and caught 1 pass for 2 yards and 1 touchdown.

Williams couldn't block a soul as a true freshman in 2012, and he improved exponentially by blocking a couple guys in 2013. The good news is that Doug Nussmeier is the new sheriff in town, and in my mind, that means he will fix every problem that Michigan ever had. The bad news is that, in my mind, that one hot chick from my senior year house party totally wanted to hook up with me.

More good news, though: A.J. Williams caught a touchdown pass!

More bad news: That was the only pass he caught since his junior year of high school.

The only other good news I have is that Chick-Fil-A is pretty tasty, especially when you remove the pickle from the sandwich.

Speaking of sandwiches, Williams has been eating less of them and is down to 263 lbs. after being 280+ as a freshman and 265 as a sophomore. Michigan will be without their main tight end in Jake Butt, so Williams will have to fill some kind of void until he returns. Even when Butt comes back, Williams will still find some playing time. This year there seems to be a challenge coming from redshirt junior Keith Heitzman, a position-switcher from defensive end. I'm dropping Williams quite a long way in this year's countdown, not because he won't play but because losing him to injury would likely not affect the team much. The combination of Heitzman and Butt should be able to do most of what Nussmeier wants, and anything the coaches can get from freshman Ian Bunting, redshirt freshman Khalid Hill, and some H-backs would be gravy.

Prediction: Backup tight end; 1 catch for 7 yards


  1. You forgot to mention that his one catch will be for a TD, because all AJ Williams does is catch touchdowns!

  2. I didn't watch Williams much last year as I was mostly watching Gardner running for his life. The one play I do remember taking notice of Williams, he was faced with the choice of blocking down and helping a tackle or picking off a linebacker. I watched him look at both, and block neither. I doubt that he really had a choice, my opinion being that he was responsible for the LB but had no clue what he was supposed to be doing on that play and as a result, froze.

    Here's where I have more faith in Nussmeier's approach than does Thunder. Simpler schemes should allow our developing athletic advantage to begin showing up. Williams is pretty big and pretty mobile and in a system that requires a lot less thinking will hopefully find his guy and put a hat on him.

    As an aside to Thunder, I also believe that you are selling yourself short here. I am certain that not only did she want you then, but also that she still wants you to this minute and has been suffering for all these years from crushing regret.

    1. I don't know -- blocking on this play was pretty simple and he still got trucked. Hard for me to have too much confidence in the guy.

      From Mgoblog UFR

    2. A reasonable argument could be made that Borges was fired in large part because he could never get Williams or Funchess to block anyone. It may or may not be his fault though...

      One point of contention - Williams has never looked mobile, even in high school.

    3. Sometimes you pull diamond recruits out of the rough, and sometimes, there is a reason a guy like Williams was not heavily recruited. Lank's point about the TE's getting Borges fired is valid. The RB running lanes did not open up until Borges finally threw in the towel on his heavy formations and went shotgun/spread against NW.

    4. Anon, I don't know what you are looking at here, but Williams controls, turns and drives (ok, ok, more like aggressively shadows) the LB lined up on his outside shoulder out of the play. The guys getting blown up are whoever is wearing #58 (I'm thinking it's Burzinsky) and Glasgow. Lewan provides some seemingly disinterested nothing as well, and Fitz is content to drive into the pile and fall down without even looking for a seem coming back, probably preferring falling down over getting blasted by All American, first round draft pick Taylor Lewan's guy who was barely bothered.

      You absolutely can't pin that one on Williams. Hell, that might have been his best play of the season.

  3. If Nussmeir goes back in time to fix the 2008 offense, will he ever get hired? MINDBLOWN

    Given that Nussmeir is going to solve all our OL woes with simplicity and enhanced talent development, and further, that 3rd year blocking specialists tend to get their groove on when thrust into bigger roles -- shouldn't we expect the same leap from Williams? Or does the fact that he played 2 years of uninspiring ball (instead of sitting on the bench like Braden) doom him to failure? Asking for a friend/favorite coach...

    I'm not sure why Heitzman is slotted ahead of Williams, who has been getting a ton of snaps for 2 years now. By default, yes, but it happened. Heitzman may do fine, but he was a lowly recruit and didn't stand out at DE. He slid over to provide depth, so it'd be surprising if he jumps Williams. He's been overrated on this countdown for a couple years now. It's time to ask - is he Thunder's cousin/nephew/dad/pet raccoon?

    1. The issue is that Williams was very undeserving of the snaps he got over the last two years. Borges had a major blind spot for him. Fans joked about Carr having an undeserved soft spot for Pat Massey back in the day, but this case is much worse. Borges loved the theory of having a people-mover at TE and Williams certainly should have been that guy (huge frame, lots of OT experience in HS). But Borges never adjusted to the reality of his terrible blocking.

      Williams was a complete disaster in '12. He was the single biggest reason that the RB's always got killed on the inverted veer that Denard used to run a lot. And considering that Williams is not a legit receiving threat, he was a primary reason defenses could stack the box like crazy in '13 without risk. Just watch the Akron game - Williams had an undersized, 220 lbs OLB jacking and dumping him like he was a HS player. Instead of giving Williams a gazillion snaps, it would have been much wiser to put a slot on the field and at least give the safeties something to think about, or force a nickel package.

      I also have a hunch that Heitzman will pass Williams eventually. Heitzman is a pretty good/tough football player, just does not have ideal size for SDE. He has the makings of at least a decent blocker. Of course, Butt is well-rounded enough now to take on full, #1 TE duties as soon as he is healthy. So even if Heitzman struggles, that alone will reduce Williams' snaps this year.

    2. My skepticism relates to position-switch guys. The transition is rarely easy. I don't think highly of Williams and I have nothing against Heitzman, who could have been at TE all along if they had correctly pegged Funchess.

      Furthermore, I'll reiterate my argument that a 3rd year player who is mostly a blocker deserves a chance to get better. His classmate Kalis is in the same boat. If you told me Godin or Pipkins twas going to switch to OG, I wouldn't assume they'd be ahead of Kalis even though he was unprepared last year and struggled. Braden couldn't even see the field on a woeful unit, but he's getting pegged for a starting spot, while Williams is viewed far more negatively.

      I tend to favor the guys who played over the guys who didn't, even if they are unexceptional. These guys tend to get unseated a lot less often than fans want (e.g., Vincent Smith, Jeremy Jackson, Roundtree, Beyer, Avery)

  4. I've never disagreed with anything on this blog so vehemently before. Team Pickle 4Life!

  5. I have been reading all of your annual countdowns. Love them. This one has been the most depressing. I see a blocking specialist who sucks at blocking in the Top 50 and it makes me weep.

  6. I must have been hallucinating, but I thought I saw AJ Williams in the spring game this year looking like an average to good blocker. Did anyone else see this? I've got a glimmer of hope he'll get it together in year 3.

  7. I'm with Thunder; pickles are overrated.