With the loss of key names to the NFL the past two years in Jaelan Phillips, Greg Rousseau, Jonathan Garvin, and Quincy Roche, Miami’s pass-rush faces the most uncertainty in the Manny Diaz era. However, with the addition of a key transfer, Deandre Johnson, and high end recruiting additions on the defensive line led by five-star tackle, Leonard Taylor, the entire defensive line could remain potent in the next few years.
There is another recent recruit that has a huge opportunity to emerge and contribute to the front line facelift at the EDGE/Defensive End position. In fact, he was the second highest ranked recruit from Miami’s 2020 class and is expected to play an integral role in the rotation this year who could very well experience a Rousseau or Phillips-type breakthrough: that is Second-Year Freshman, Chantz Williams.
Chantz’s Recruiting Trail
Williams hails from Orange Park (Fla.) Oakleaf High School, which is located in the Jacksonville area. Oakleaf has produced three Under Armour All-Americans who all enrolled at the U - 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.
Early in his recruitment process, the no. 85 recruit in the nation was eyeing FSU and Clemson. Soon thereafter, he announced an identical top five as Rivers’ with Georgia, Florida, Alabama, FSU, and Miami on the list. Chantz dropped Miami from his list for a short period but eventually signed with the Canes.
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 had at least one constant on a daily basis as he roomed with Rivers.
He also got a head start in Coach David Feeley’s Strength and Conditioning Program.
had a great time in miami today pic.twitter.com/fpqw2Q0VQa— Chantz Williams (@_chantzler) February 20, 2018
High School Career and Skillset
Chantz’s bio on Miami’s website states he is currently 6’4”, 255lbs, which indicates he has been a huge beneficiary of Feeley’s Strength regimen. In February 2019, Williams was listed at 6’3.5”, 214lbs at the Opening Regional in Orlando. Then, a year before enrolling, he measured at 6’4”, 238lbs. And so far, all signs indicate Chantz has been able to effectively pack on weight at the college level.
“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.” Miami Senior Football Advisor Stroud stated,
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.
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 his teammate Rivers won). Interestingly, 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.
In the recruitment process, Chantz showed off his freakish athleticism at the combines and showcases. 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,” 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, something that Miami fans have seen a lot of in recent years. 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 and in working through RPO schemes. 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 continues to get stronger 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 2021
As a true freshman last year who was recovering from his senior year forearm injury, Chantz was very slowly assimilated into the mix as he only played in three games in low leverage and lopsided contests (FSU, Duke, North Carolina), where he tallied two tackles on 21 defensive snaps (he also did not receive a snap in the Cheez-It Bowl despite a scant defensive end unit due to opt outs). He had the opportunity to learn from some of the nation’s best in Phillips and Roche.
Now, due to the NFL Draft departures, Chantz has an opportunity to really excel in Miami’s defense as an integral rotational piece on the EDGE. He fits in perfectly due to his impressive athleticism and vehement pursuit capabilities, traits that HC Manny Diaz has been able to maximize during his time at Miami with rangy players such as Phillips, Rousseau, Chad Thomas, and Joe Jackson. Diaz has also noted Williams has flashed in camp thus far.
As far as someone who can make a meteoric leap in 2021 to assist with the frontline facelift, Chantz could be as suitable as anyone. During camp, he has had some opportunities to work with the first-team defense opposite other EDGE defender Jahfari Harvey - another long defensive end at 6’4”, 245lbs. In all likelihood, as Miami seeks to mitigate the tripartite departure at the EDGE, Chantz will occupy the DE position along with Harvey, Deandre Johnson, and Zach McCloud. There is also some depth for situational or low leverage roles, but the four above will be most relied upon to maintain a stout pass rush game to fill in huge shoes.
Miami doing 11 on 11 and today the younger guys are starting in the front 7. That’s Chantz Williams, Jahfari Harvey at end, Keontra Smith and Corey Flagg Jr. at linebacker. Keyshawn Smith still with the 1s at WR— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) August 7, 2021
Williams ranks high as a contributor to Miami’s defensive line that is experiencing significant turnover. And while there is concern on the line for 2021, the group appears to be a formidable one as Chantz takes on a pronounced role.
Miami’s coaches have been impressed by Williams’ ability to learn and efforts in camp. Should Chantz take the leap this year with more experience, he could bring a pass rushing prowess that is absolutely needed right away in a room that had Rousseau and Phillips shine in back-to-back seasons. And, for the most part, the Rousseau and Phillips breakout seasons came as a surprise. I like Chantz’s chances of breaking through sooner or later.