COLUMBUS – Few current players for the Buckeyes have captured the imagination of fans the way that defensive tackle Tyleik Williams has.
Fans remember a three-game stretch during the 2021 season that saw Williams get home for four sacks from his interior line position and the expectations have been off the chart since that run against Tulsa, Akron and Rutgers.
But there have only been two sacks since as Williams has been fighting for playing time in a room that has been deep with older players and a position coach in Larry Johnson that prefers to roll players in and out of the lineup.
Year three will be a big one for Williams as he has gone through his fair share of challenges, missing multiple years of high school football, and just keeping healthy with the rigors of the college game.
There certainly would be times where the game of football may become an overwhelming chore and it would be easy to fall out of love with it.
“I just came in as a high school kid didn’t play football for two years,” Williams recalled. “They really got me back into loving football.”
You go from two years of not playing the sport to being thrust into an ultra-competitive situation like Ohio State where you are vying for reps and playing time against many of the best that college football has to offer.
“I gained a lot of weight (before getting to Ohio State), but I shed that off,” Williams added. “(The time around) COVID, I didn’t work (at all) for six months, seven months. I was like, ‘When (is) football gonna come back?’ It was like two years, something like that. I didn’t have my senior year.”
Fortunately for Tyleik, there were veterans on the team that saw that he was not giving it his full effort at first and pushed him hard to get past that and work on getting better.
“When I came in, I was lazy,” Williams admitted. “Zach (Harrison) always get on me, ‘run more, run to the ball,’ that’s how I really got all the weight off, by running. They all got on me, ‘run, run, run, run, stop jogging, walking around and stuff’. All the D-line really. We all push each other.”
With the attrition that surrounds college football, there will be plenty of opportunity there for Williams this season with the departures of interior players like Jerron Cage and Taron Vincent.
Opportunity means little if you are not there to seize it, that is something that Williams is ready to do this year, not only for himself but for his unit and his team.
“I just want to dominate,” Williams said. “I feel like it is my time to step up, you know how our whole group need to dominate, we need to implement the Rushmen back into where we’ve been.”
Williams and Mike Hall will be the veterans in a group that will be looking to new faces to step up and provide depth as Ohio State’s defensive line looks to take that next step. Williams has tasted that success before and knows what it is going to take and that opposing teams will not be able to take him lightly.
“I feel like I’m just a disrupter, I can make a play any position on the D-line,” Williams said. “I’m going to bring it, you have got to double team me. I get double teamed a lot, I don’t really get one on ones, that’s how I feel.”