Notre Dame football recruiting: Berrien’s Williams drops Mizzou for ND

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

For Jhonny Williams, the decision came down to family.

The chance to play close to his mother and younger brother following his career at Berrien Springs (Mich.) High School was too enticing to pass up.

On Wednesday, the senior defensive end switched his verbal commitment to Notre Dame nearly two months after pledging to Missouri.

"It was pretty much what was in the best interest of my family,” Williams said. “I'm really the man in my family and have been for a while now since the absence of my father and older brother. It wouldn't be the best thing to up and leave.”

The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Williams made the short trip to South Bend last weekend for an official visit to Notre Dame. After two days on campus, Williams was sure he wanted to join the Irish program.

"The whole coaching staff was really great,” Williams said. “The players were really welcoming in interacting with me. It just felt like home. It felt right.”

Williams spent a lot of time talking with players on the team — “I cannot say I didn’t talk to one player,” he said.

He was hosted by a trio of freshmen – walk-on cornerback Jesse Bongiovi, wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. and cornerback Devin Butler. Williams learned from the coaching staff where he’d fit, likely a rush linebacker, in defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s scheme.

“That's where I'll have to make a contribution from,” Williams said. “I really like their style of defense. I think it will be a good fit.”

The ability to pursue from the edge of the line of scrimmage showed in Williams' senior season. He tallied 69 tackles, 15 for a loss and 12.5 sacks.

Williams, who also participates in basketball and track and field at Berrien Springs, emerged as a high-level prospect this season with a greater understanding of the game.

"He didn't understand the discipline of the different things and how everyone's depending on him to do his job,” Berrien Springs head coach Bill Bergan said earlier this month. “Once he got that concept, he was able to use his natural abilities with his explosiveness. He's just tenacious. He runs stuff down. He takes it head on.”

Williams, a three-star prospect according to Rivals and 247Sports, could be a candidate for a boost in the rankings in postseason updates. Rivals ranked him as the No. 18 prospect for 2014 in Michigan before his senior season. 247Sports slated him as the No. 36 strongside defensive end and No. 15 in the state.

The college options for Williams started to increase in November. Following Notre Dame’s offer earlier this month, Williams received offers from Michigan and Washington. Before Missouri offered, Williams pledged a commitment to Toledo. Switching from Missouri to Notre Dame wasn’t easy for Williams, but he thought the Irish offered the best opportunity for him.

"It was tough. I really respect and really appreciate everything the Missouri coaches have done for me,” Williams said. “It was the best for me and my family for me to commit to Notre Dame."

That’s why Williams picked up the phone and called Irish head coach Brian Kelly Wednesday morning to make the move official. Kelly later took to Twitter and sent out a simple “#WeAreND,” which is believed to be, although unconfirmed, a signal that there's been a recent committment to the program.  Kelly has sent out similar tweets on the days of the last four verbal commitments received by the Irish. Williams becomes the 19th commitment in the 2014 class.

"He was excited and congratulated me,” Williams said. “He told me 'Keep doing what you're doing and we'll be ready to roll here soon.'”

Watch highlights from Williams' senior season here.

Berrien Springs defensive end Jhonny Williams. (Photo provided)