Ishaq Williams' situation appears to be moving toward resolution

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — A visit last week to Notre Dame’s Pro Day by exiled defensive end Ishaq Williams didn’t yield any clarity for Irish head football coach Brian Kelly about Williams’ intentions for the future.

But at least now there is the commitment to meet later this month to sort that out.

“All we had a chance to say was, ‘Hello and how you doing?’ But we did not have a chance to talk further.

“He’s going to be back up here after the spring game (April 18), and I’ll get more of a chance to spend some time. He was short on time. He had to get back to Chicago for a prior commitment.”

Williams, cornerback KeiVarae Russell, linebacker Kendall Moore and wide receiver DaVaris Daniels were pulled from the Irish roster on Aug. 15 as part of the school's academic dishonesty investigation. Backup safety Eilar Hardy joined them in limbo when he was added to the probe on Aug. 29.

Only Hardy, of those five, returned to play in the 2014 season. He participated in ND's final five games of the season, making nine tackles. Russell and Williams are the only two in play to suit up for the Irish in 2015, though Williams’ path to return remains muddled.

“I think what we’ll try to really get some clarity on is what his intentions are academically more than anything else,” Kelly said of the impending meeting with the 6-foot-6, 271-pound senior from Brooklyn. N.Y.

“(There are) things that he’ll have to take care of in the summertime just to get the ball moving for his ability to be reinstated.”

That’s reinstatement for football by meeting NCAA standards. Williams, like Russell, is expected to be eligible for reinstatement as a student at Notre Dame in June. Russell, attending classes this semester at the University of Washington in his home state, appears to be clear of any NCAA hurdles.

Hardy, meanwhile, said he will transfer to Bowling Green in May, after getting his ND degree, for his fifth and final season of eligibility. Moore’s eligibility lapsed at the end of the 2014 season. And with degree already in hand, he’ll make a run at getting into an NFL camp.

Daniels said March 31 at Pro Day that there was an avenue for him to return to Notre Dame but that it was complicated and in January decided to enter the 2015 NFL Draft. He said he never considered transferring to another school to play out his remaining college eligibility.

Williams, a former five-star prospect and a projected starter in 2014 until his suspension, watched Daniels and Moore and nine other former teammates audition for NFL scouts and personnel types at ND’s Pro Day on March 31.

Until that point, Williams and Kelly had no direct contact this semester, per the coach. And Kelly wondered aloud last month if Williams really wanted to return.

A text message to the South Bend Tribune from Williams’ father, Shaun, in early March stated Ishaq Williams definitely wanted to return to Notre Dame.

A grad school-style transfer, with immediate eligibility at another FBS school, isn’t open to Williams at the end of the spring semester, since he won’t have yet secured his degree. He could transfer down a level, to an FCS school, for example, but the NCAA’s ruling on his game-day eligibility would presumably follow him there.

The NCAA’s jurisdiction in Williams’ possible return only affects his game-day status. It’s possible he could return, finish his degree work at ND, and practice, condition and lift with the team without a guarantee of being able to play in the fall.

Despite Williams having made just one career start and with a modest one career sack in his ND career, the converted outside linebacker is still very much on the radar of NFL teams and, more immediately, would be in position to help an Irish defensive line in 2015 that is limited on edge pass-rushers with experience.

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Ishaq Williams watches drills during Pro Day Tuesday, March 31, 2015, in South Bend. (SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ)