Williams making NYC a DL home
Trend of top DL coming from NYC started in 2006, but picks up steam this year
BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- It started in 2006 with Maurice Evans, picked up some traction with Dominique Easley in the last recruiting cycle, and now Ishaq Williams (Brooklyn/Abraham Lincoln) is about to make it a full-fledged trend of New York City producing great defensive linemen.
Evans, who attended Christ The King in Brooklyn, went on to Penn State and then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while Easley, a 2010 Under Armour All-American who attended Curtis High School in Staten Island, will play for Florida this fall. Williams has the talent and work ethic to be just as good as either of them.
WAIT, THERE'S MORE
Ishaq Williams isn't the only big-time defensive linemen from New York City this year. When you talk to anyone familiar with high school football in New York, they bring up defensive tackle Al Page (Bronx/Christopher Columbus).
The 6-foot-1, 287-pounder is an early commit to Rutgers and could end up making headlines nationally when all is said and done. Page earned All-City honors with 40 tackles, six sacks and four fumble recoveries as a junior, and his game films have impressed the scouts of ESPN Recruiting, especially Craig Haubert, who evaluates defensive linemen.
"I am very explosive," Page said. "I am quick off the ball and I have good technique. I can get of blocks real well and when I don't, I can keep blockers off the linebackers, which frees them up to make plays."
Page picked the Scarlet Knights over Louisville, Kansas, Syracuse and Maryland.
Part of that preparation is the work Williams puts in developing a deeper understanding of the game, and not just from an X's and O's standpoint, either.
"If he doesn't understand something right away, he will come back and study it," O'Connor said. "We spoke with a coach from Notre Dame and he said something about [former New York Giants all-pro] Lawrence Taylor. He didn't know who that was, but the next day he came back to school and had researched [Taylor] on the computer and he knew who he was. It's sort of funny that someone doesn't know who Lawrence Taylor was, but I guess kids this age, to them, LT is LaDainian Tomlinson. He does his prep and does his research on a lot of things."
Williams says some schools that run 3-4 defensive schemes are evaluating him as an outside linebacker, something that plays to what O'Connor says is Williams' greatest strength -- pass rushing.
"I chase down plays well," Williams said "I play sideline to sideline. I use the offensive lineman's weakness to get to the quarterback. I feel like I get to the quarterback fast. I do want to work on my left-handed stance."
Williams has a host of scholarship offers, including Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Miami, Notre Dame, North Carolina State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Carolina, Syracuse, Texas Tech, USC and West Virginia. He has visited Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse unofficially and said the coaches at each of those programs had great knowledge of football.
Nittany Lions defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who is considered one of the nation's best recruiters, has been involved with Williams for Penn State.
"[Johnson] is a wonderful guy," Williams said. "I really respected him for his knowledge of the game. I was taken aback by how the players at Penn State respected him. He's a good coach; I can see that I would fit in there."
Williams has taken in a basketball game at Syracuse and said he got an appreciation for the atmosphere and size of the Carrier Dome, where the Orange also play football. He also was impressed with Rutgers coach Greg Schiano after the two met during his trip to New Brunswick.
This summer, Williams and his father plan to visit multiple programs. He will trim his list from there.
"I am looking for a good education, a good program, a place where I feel comfortable with the coaches, and a good environment," Williams said. "I want to wait until national signing day to make a decision. Everything is equal right now."
In recent years, O'Connor's program has produced receiver Nyan Boateng, who originally signed with Florida before transferring to Cal, and tight end/receiver Lansford Watson, who is at Maryland. And Williams will be the next big thing to come from NYC.
"I think the talent level [in New York City] has risen a lot," O'Connor said. "With guys like [Easley] and [Evans] schools are realizing that we have athletes and it's helping out the younger players, the Pop Warner Football. When I go speak at banquets, they know about my guys. Football is starting to spread in this basketball town."
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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