Class of 2014 First Look: Marshawn Williams

Virginia Tech's running game was maddeningly inconsistent over the course of the 2013 season. Outside of Trey Edmunds' performance against Miami, the Hokies could not establish the power running game especially in the red zone. With only scat backs and players converted from other positions littering the depth chart, Virginia Tech actively recruited several running backs that had the size, strength, and speed to be an every down workhorse back in Blacksburg.

Marshawn Williams was one of the earliest players to commit to the Hokies in the 2014 cycle. Playing in the traditionally strong Peninsula District, Williams rushed for 2,192 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns. With Williams leading the way, Phoebus rolled through a 9-1 regular season with their only loss coming to Cam Phillips and a nationally recognized DeMatha program. Williams was injured in the second round of the playoffs, and Phoebus was ultimately upset by Kings Fork.

It can be easy to get caught up in a high school player's numbers. At that level there are plenty of dominant players who turn out to be mediocre college football players. I always raise an eyebrow when I watch film of a recruit at running back and they are ripping off long runs when they go through a huge hole untouched. I try to look for how running backs change speeds, run after contact, and cut before I get overly excited. To see how a guy performs when his numbers are not over the top will tell you more about a player than to see him running untouched to the endzone.

In the case of Marshawn, I wanted to avoid the highlight reels. His highlights are chock full of terrific long runs, some of which he hurdles smaller defensive backs and keeps running without breaking a stride. Against one team, he scored 8 touchdowns. Needless to say, that team didn't have many ACC caliber defenders.

I dug through videos online, and I found a full-length game film of Marshawn's Phoebus team playing fellow Hokie recruit Ricky Walker and Bethel High School. Bethel loaded up the line of scrimmage with eight- and nine-man fronts, and it took a little while to get open. Walker, who was coming off an injury, was dominant playing as a nose tackle early in the game, and Williams had little room to maneuver on the inside.

There has been a bunch of talk about how Williams is a power back. Indeed, he's powerful, but I walked away most impressed with his downhill speed and balance, especially when facing contact in very tight space.

Williams isn't the fastest player on the field, but his speed increases significantly when running north-south, especially into a seam. Let's watch a toss power play against Bethel.

01:14:34–01:14:45

Williams takes the pitch and runs to the strong side. The right defensive end and No. 21 both have enough of an angle that they could slow down Williams, but Marshawn doesn't slow down to avoid them, and ends up running by each. Only a lucky hand catching Williams by the ankle results in a touchdown.

His running stride is remarkably similar to Trey Edmunds. He runs very upright, with a very flatfooted stride. Trey's stride is a little longer, and his cuts are a bit more violent. Williams is a little more subtle in his cuts, but they are effective.

Bethel dominated the game early, as they used a five man defensive line with Ricky Walker as the nose tackle. Walker was absolutely shredding the Phoebus center, and Williams often had to make a great effort just to get back to the line of scrimmage. But, as the game progressed, he found plenty of room on the outside and had the speed to take advantage. He isn't just a brute power back. His cuts are assertive, fast, and not exaggerated so he stays on balance, and when he arrives at contact, he finishes the run.

Here, Phoebus calls an inside zone play with the fullback leading Williams.

01:00:55–01:01:06

The center blocks back on Walker, who is aligned on his right shoulder. Walker gets separation on the center by getting under his pads and extending with a punch technique. Walker takes a beautiful angle and sheds the blocker. Beautiful play by Walker, but Williams keeps moving without losing his balance and runs right through Walker's tackle. Walker isn't a joke folks. I wouldn't be surprised if he makes the two-deep at defensive tackle in 2014. Williams then gets up field before he is gang tackled.

This is critically important. On goal line and short yardage runs, an offense can't account for every defender with a blocking scheme. The running back has to win a physical battle. Williams wins a battle against perhaps the best defensive player in his district and a Hokie who could likely play this year.

He has a nose for the goal line and always is moving towards the end zone. Ryan Williams was a similar player in that he was always moving forward. Williams has serious power in his legs, as shown here. The clip speaks for itself.

01:37:44–01:38:00

At the bottom of the post are more of the fun highlights to salivate over. Watching is worth 10 minutes of your time.

Williams is certainly talented enough to be an every down tailback in the tradition of a Lee Suggs or Darren Evans, but he has the mobility to really make your jaw drop. He looks huge on the field, even though Edmunds is a little taller and weighs about the same as him. He is comfortable running inside and outside, but he is at his best with his pads facing downhill.

My biggest concern is that his offense was essentially him running the ball with an occasional quarterback run. I watched the entire game film and didn't see a situation where Williams was in any kind of pass protection. In order to be an every down back, you have to be proficient in pass protection.

Can Williams contribute this season? Absolutely. I don't think he would be enrolling early unless he has an opportunity to compete for a spot in the two-deep. Will he? That depends on Loeffler's plan and how Marshawn's skillset fits in his offense. The inverted veer and sweep action that the Hokies had success with doesn't really seem to be a good fit. He looks much more comfortable in the I, ace, and pistol formations.

That being said, the Hokies have five scholarship running backs, and all except for J.C. Coleman and Jerome Wright have used a redshirt year. While Williams may have more upside than the incumbents, he will have to be dependable in pass protection and more effective than the returners to avoid taking a redshirt year.

Comments

So pumped to watch this guy play in Blacksburg. #BEASTMODE2.0

Damn, my question was going to be about pass pro, since that was one of the reasons I kept hearing was keeping Caleb off the field. Now we have to badger Andy Bitter to ask/observe that during spring ball.

I just don't know what we do with J.C.. The kid has been such a team player, but if Williams can come in and be a 1, 2 punch with Trey and be better in pass protection. I see J.C. easily sliding down to 3rd sting.

Don't forget Shai McKenzie too.

Sucks for JC, but he's had many opportunities over the last year.

Twitter me

I think he has a great work ethic, but is a little bit of square peg, round hole.
Not his fault at all; I respect JC highly.
But you want a situation for the kid to succeed, and I don't know it it exists at VT right now.
It's a product, IMHO, of lack of offensive identity for the past few years=lack of identification of players to fill specific needs. I think that we are getting back to it, but man, there's some cleaning up to do.
I kinda feel like it's a big cluster right now, but the ground work is being laid.

Agreed, this is what happens in transitions. Lefty will figure it out. There will be attrition, some tough decisions have to be made. VT FB Coach Staff will make them. I just feel it.

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

I think that McKenzie is a redshirt due to his acl injury.

10 years in a row...

I was thinking this myself. Does anyone know what his status is. Seems like he wouldn't be able to participate in Spring drills due to his knee?

Also what happened to Reid. Saw he didn't enroll this spring.

dont have any source to link, but heard from a good source he doesnt have the grades and probably wont end up at tech at this point

Who? McKenzie? He is already enrolled and on campus, along with Williams, Ford, and Mihota.

Viva El Guapo

I think he was saying Reid.

Hokies, Redskins and Braves fan since birth.
#BeatW&M

Yep, Reid

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

Reid has been accepted and is enrolling the same time as Holland Fisher (1st summer session)

Flowers, Harris, Chancellor, Carmichael, Whitley, Hosley, Fuller, Exum

Interesting video.
The tempo of his stride doesn't seem to change much, it's the length of his stride that changes when he wants to accelerate N/S.

Danny caught that ball.

Friends don't let 5 star friends commit to UVA.

I have inside info. - Whit

The more I watch "Juice", the more I like what I see. Interested to see your write-up for Shai. He is a stud too.

Good read. Can't wait to see these on the rest of the class!

VT '10 #AllMaroonEverything

I love seeing these guys that are a little less "flash" and speed, and a little more power. I want some of this next year:

And then some of this:

#thingsiblamethemvsfor

Don't let the power fool you. He has plenty of flash. He proved to be much more elusive and much more prone to jump cut ala a Ryan Williams than I expected. He isn't a pure battering ram, even though I fully expect him to be characterized by writers who don't actually watch the players play as the power back and McKenzie as the "big play speed guy." I think Shai probably wins in a timed 40, but both guys are quick, both guys are powerful, and both guys understand how to set up blocks and get north south. Where Marshawn often jump-cuts, Shai sets up his blocks with subtle shoulder "shimmeys" and bounces outside. His style reminds me of Kevin Jones and, to a greater extent, a much more talented and bigger Michael Holmes. He is so patient until he gains an angle, and then he has special explosion.

Viva El Guapo

Nice to see we have some big talented backs coming into the program. Who was lead recruiter on these two? Shane as the RB coach?

Oh don't get me wrong, I like the flash. I just like some power with my flash.

#thingsiblamethemvsfor

These are my all time two favorite RB highlights. thanks for combining them into one post

I'm just glad we have this "good problem" with alot of quality RB's. This program is no stranger to summer camp and early season injuries. While I never want to see a player hurt, it certainly helps to have a full stable. Also, we all know not every recruit pans out either. Some of these dudes could be bust's or have Brandon Ore type friends they hang around too.

"Sure, I've been called a xenophobe, but the truth is, I'm not. I honestly just feel that America is the best country and the other countries aren't as good. That used to be called patriotism." Kenny Powers

Biggest thing that stands out to me is how quickly he hits the hole, there's no dancing or hesitation behind the LOS. Good to see a back like that coming to VT to balance out some of the scat backs we have now

RealDiehl

I know his nickname is "Juice" - but after looking at that photo, I would like to submit the following:

http://flipsidesf.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/artisticpredator-259116.jpeg

definitely just saved this photo for a future computer background.

nickname juice huh? so i guess we'll be yelling juuuuuice! when he makes a play? we havent had a guy with an 'ooo' sound in their name in a while, should be fun. the announcers will be all 'now they're not booing bob, they're yelling juuuuice.'

"It's worth it right? It's worth it to lay it all on the line for your brothers!"
"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster (both quotes)

This is sick. I'm also a little partial to comparing him to The Shredder myself
the shredder

Carry Me Back

QUARTERBACK COMPETITION. RUNNING BACK COMPETITION. WIDE RECEIVER COMPETITION. Last year, we didn't have enough bodies. Depth is the word on offense.

00:11:53–00:12:02

Viva El Guapo

I'm still not sure "depth" is the right word, at least for QB. I'm not sold that any of our guys will be capable of much more than game management this fall, much less multiple of them.

Don't get me wrong, I love the RBs we have coming in, and I think they will contribute greatly over their careers at Tech, but given the way this team plays, and the way we'll need a RB to play in the next year or two, right now I pretty much have 1 primary concern when it comes to a RB (or hell, anyone for that matter)

Can he truck a bitch?

I know in that one highlight video, many bitches were trucked that day.

hehe

"I'm high on Juice and ready to stick it in!" Whit Babcock

"It ain't easy bein steezy"

#VanillaVick will lead us to the promise land

want

edit: just saw this above. sorry for the double post. I guess Darren Evans is that good.

VT '10 #AllMaroonEverything

yeah..but who cares? I could watch this over and over...

"I like to hit a home run early" ~ Whit "knows how to create a Buzz" Babcock

I hate to be Mr. Negative here, but who's going to block for them? Searels has one hell of a task ahead of him, hopefully he can solve it...

10 years in a row...

This past season proved that, with good coaching, even our patchwork O-line could improve vastly over the course of a season, as French's breakdowns have showed. Add the developing talent of Wyatt Teller and Alston Smith, along with new recruits, and I'd say things will be looking up.

With the fundamentals Grimes drilled into the OL (Frenchie did a great article on that...), I think Searels has something to start with. 2014 is going to be exciting!

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

I like his acceleration no dancing just hits the whole. Nice to see he had the speed to bounce to the outside on pitch plays because Trey Edmunds is more of a one dimensional north-south runner . I like this kid and I think he could be the power back we are looking for. I think a redshirt would benefit him to bulk up and block and everything.Call me selfish, but as a student I would like the product on the field to improve while I am here.

Bulk up??? He weighs 224 lbs...I think he's good on that end.

“These people are losing their minds. This is beautiful.”

Bulk up, ya say?

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

For those that think in term of stars when evaluating recruits, Williams just got bumped to a 4 star today moving us up to #19 in their class rankings.

Just posted the same thing. Great minds!

Viva El Guapo

Meant to include which recruiting service bumped him so you covered that with your post. Great teamwork!

high five

why doesn't this article show up when I click "French" in the header bar?