Despite losing a key name for the 2020 season, the Defensive End Position looks potent on paper. And due to some recent movement on the recruiting trail, the entire defensive line is expected to be a dominant group for years to come.
But, not to be overlooked, one of the recent recruits has a huge opportunity to contribute to the front line facelift at the EDGE/Defensive End position and was the second highest ranked recruit from Miami’s 2020 class - Chantz Williams.
Chantz’s Recruiting Trail
Williams hails from Orange Park (Fla.) Oakleaf High School, which is located in the Jacksonville area. And if the high school sounds familiar to Canes’ fans, there is good reason why. Oakleaf has produced three Under Armour All-Americans who all enrolled at the U. Those three players are Shaquille Quarterman, Jalen Rivers (2020 commit), and Williams.
Chantz’s recruiting process was very similar to his teammate, Rivers, even though they appeared to slightly diverge towards the end of their respective processes.
And, although Williams piqued the interest from in-state foes and perennial SEC powerhouses, Miami maintained a steady radar on Chantz. In January 2018, Williams was eyeing FSU and Clemson. However, he told InsideTheU after Miami’s Paradise Camp that “Miami is definitely up there. They are on the top of my list. They recruit me the hardest and they feel like a second family to me.”
A year later, on February 15, 2019, Chantz announced his top five that was identical to Rivers - Georgia, Florida, Alabama, FSU, and Miami. Interestingly, however, for a short period of time Williams dropped the Hurricanes from his short list and it looked like Georgia and Florida were his final candidates. In early-June 2019, Rivers committed to Miami and it appeared Williams crystal ball was actually aiming towards Gainesville. However, as July came around, Miami became the favorite to land Williams, which came to fruition as Chantz chose the Canes over Florida, LSU, Georgia, and Texas A&M.
After his commitment Williams told 247Sports and InsideTheU that he “picked Miami because I felt like it was my home basically. I feel like it was a place that wanted me and needed me and they showed that throughout the whole recruiting process.”
Coach Manny Diaz echoed Williams’ sentiment: “We had a great relationship with him and his family going back through his entire high school career, so we really had a chance to watch him develop. … He’s really disruptive and I think we’ve seen in all four years we’ve been here, we’ve had really disruptive defensive end play, guys that could really get out to the quarterback. Chantz has a lot of the same skills of the guys that have come through here and has a chance to be right up in that class.”
After choosing Miami, Chantz also opted to head south as soon as possible when a number of freshman enrolled early this past January, including Williams. And while adjusting to college as a student-athlete can be a difficult one, Williams has had at least one constant on a daily basis as he rooms with Rivers.
Enrolling early also provided Williams an opportunity to fill out his frame through workouts with strength and conditioning coaches.
“I feel like [enrolling early] will get me ready in the weight room like I should be,” Williams said. “That’s my main focus.”
had a great time in miami today pic.twitter.com/fpqw2Q0VQa— Chantz Williams (@_chantzler) February 20, 2018
High School Career and Skillset
If Chantz’s bio on Miami’s website is accurate and he is indeed currently 6’4”, 255lbs, then he has been putting in work in the weight room. In February 2019, Williams was listed at 6’3.5”, 214lbs at the Opening Regional in Orlando. Then, around a year ago, he measured at 6’4”, 238lbs at the same high school recruiting event, which indicates Chantz has been able to effectively pack on weight so far.
On the field, Williams ended his high school career with 129 tackles, 22 sacks, 25 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and eight pass breakups, and was an Under Armour All-American. Unfortunately, Chantz did not get a chance to play in the All-American game because he broke his forearm midway through his senior year, but still totaled 35 tackles and 11.5 sacks in the five games he played in 2019. Williams has had a nice recovery from that forearm injury as he was able to participate in Miami’s spring practices.
In addition to his skills on the football field, Chantz was a three-sport athlete in basketball and track & field (he finished 5th in the District in the Shotput, an event that Rivers won). Also, Williams’ primary sport was once basketball, where he excelled as a big man averaging 7.8 rebounds per game and 3.4 blocks per game.
During high school, Chantz showed off his freakish athleticism at the recruiting combines. For example, at the Elite 11 Regional in Orlando in March 2018, scouts noted Williams as one of the top pass-rushers in the camp during position drills and one-on-ones. The testing numbers were also impressive at the Opening Orlando Regional in February 2019 and July 2019 where Williams shined, completing bests in the 40-yard dash of 4.56-seconds, short shuttle in 4.49-seconds, and the vertical jump at 35.9 inches. Also, his wingspan measured at 6-feet-8, a key trait for an EDGE defender.
“His measurables put him at the top,” Miami Defensive Line Coach, Todd Stroud, noted. “He is at about 244 pounds right now and has a big frame. He has wide shoulders and a good burst off the football. A very good take off. His pure rush ability stands out about him. His twitch is second to none in this class. He shows the ability to generate speed to power.”
As is evident from the above highlight tape, Williams boasts his skills most off of the EDGE and shows a tenacious pursuit in pass rush. That strong ability to get to the QB through a lethal combination of quickness and speed will be highlighted at the college level, especially against spread offenses. He exhibits a good field awareness to flank out to the flats when needed and is relentless in getting after QBs/RBs with his long frame. As he gets bigger at the college level, he will continue to be even more electric and disruptive as a downright problem for opposing offenses.
247Sports National Director of Recruiting, Steve Wiltfong, spoke highly of him, “I expect Williams to be an impact player for the Hurricanes and one of the ACC’s best pass rushers for years to come.”
Expectations for 2020
Chantz has an opportunity to really excel in Miami’s defense due to his impressive athleticism and vehement pursuit capabilities. Last Thursday was a huge day for Williams. First, he learned the Canes landed a five-star recruiting commit for 2021 when DT Leonard Taylor made his announcement at 1pm. Then, less than two hours later, it was announced that Miami’s star DE, Gregory Rousseau, would be opting out for the upcoming season as he prepares for the 2021 NFL Draft where he is a possible top-ten pick.
Prior to Rousseau’s announcement, it appeared that Williams would slowly be assimilated into a situational role. He was also expected to have the opportunity to learn from the sideline from one of the game’s best in Rousseau and another highly touted end, Quincy Roche.
Now, however, Chantz will likely be expected to take on more reps, especially if the opt out trend continues among expected early round picks as Roche is also expected to be picked in the first two rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft. Regardless, Williams should have some exposure to Rousseau, Roche, and also UCLA Transfer and 2018 five-star recruit, Jaelan Phillips, in the coming months.
In addition, Chantz will benefit from learning from another long defensive end in 2019 recruit, Jahfari Harvey, who stands at 6’4”, 245lbs. Harvey saw action in four games in 2019, but is now expected to have a big role in Miami’s defensive end rotation, especially as a pass rusher.
As of right now, Chantz appears to be fourth on the EDGE/Defensive End depth chart behind Roche, Phillips, and Harvey. Miami also has some depth behind Chantz in freshman, Quentin Williams and sophomore, Cameron Williams.
While there was a chance Chantz would opt for a redshirt this year, that appears less likely as Miami should be able to utilize Williams’ athleticism right away, which should give the defensive front plenty of versatility. Even more, Chantz’s frame has been noticed in the first few practices as Coach Stroud stated, “During the pandemic, he went from 238 pounds to 261 pounds and he is kind of settling back down at 255 pounds and he still runs very well. He really rushes the passer strong and he looked very good tonight.”
Moving past 2020, Williams ranks high as a future contributor to Miami’s defensive line that not only adds Taylor to the interior, but also has landed commits from Jabari Ishmael and Thomas Davis. And while there is concern on the line for 2020 after Rousseau has opted out, the group appears to be a formidable one as Chantz continues to take on a pronounced role.
Miami’s coaches have been impressed by Williams’ ability to learn. Should Chantz take the leap at the college level in a quick fashion, he could bring a pass rushing prowess that is absolutely needed right away in Rousseau’s absent.