Tyleik Williams waited for just the right time to remind people that he is still very much a part of this Ohio State defensive line.
With Penn State leading 14-13 in the third quarter last week, Williams picked up a key sack of PSU quarterback Sean Clifford and then made a huge fourth-down stop of running back Nicholas Singleton for no gain at the Ohio State 19-yard line.
In a season where his three other defensive line classmates — JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, and Mike Hall — have been receiving more attention than he has, Williams happily put his name back into the OSU football conversation where it resided for the majority of last season.
A year ago as a true freshman, Williams finished third on the Buckeyes with 6.5 tackles for loss and second with 5.0 sacks. His performance in 2021 led to season-long questions as to why he wasn’t playing more, with the answers usually coming back to the usual freshman issues like stamina and consistency.
Coming into 2022, expectations were high for Williams, but the spotlight didn’t fully find him until that third quarter in Happy Valley.
“Yeah, that was a big play on the fourth down,” head coach Ryan Day said on his radio show Thursday. “He did a really good job leverage-wise. Got his hands inside and did a good job getting off the block of a couple guys and made an impact. Also had a sack. So yeah, I think you can see him flash. And when he becomes more and more consistent boy, he’s gonna become a weapon.”
The fourth-down play in particular was an example of Williams’ recognition of his surroundings and understanding of how to maneuver them.
“So yeah, they were going the other way,” Williams explained, “but the quarterback checked it, and as a D-lineman the O-line looks where they’re going, so I squared back up. And I saw him look at me. All I knew was I had to take off and defeat the block.”
Williams played his most snaps of the year against Penn State and has seen his snap count climb each of the last four games. It’s not the playmaking that will get him on the field, however, it’s the consistency and reliability with how he does his job.
Ryan Day and his defensive coaches have talked about how talented Williams is, but talent can only do so much. Williams is still just a true sophomore who missed a senior year of high school and has had to learn just how difficult being consistent is at a place like Ohio State.
“II mean, yes, it’s true,” Williams explained. “Practice, I gotta show up more. Every play is not one play, 10 plays off, another play. I gotta do every play, every play, every play and show ’em what I can really do.
“It’s a challenge every day. You’re going against the best every day you know. I think we got one of the best O lines you know. They’re physical, fast, and they make me better every day.”
Williams has taken to the challenge more and more, and is a better football player for it. His stamina and understanding of his role have grown, which has increased his snap count. Take the stop on fourth-and-two, for instance, where he picked up on where the offensive line was looking before the snap.
“Yeah, stuff like that last year I wouldn’t have even thought about it,” he said. “But now I can like read stuff like that.”
And when you combine the increased football awareness with his improved stamina and the growth of his overall game, what kind of ceiling does Tyleik Williams have?
“I don’t know yet,” he said smiling. “We’re gonna see.”
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