Notre Dame picked up a major commitment today when Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei star CJ Williams pledged to the Fighting Irish. Williams is one of the nation's best pass catchers and he was one of the top targets on the board for the Irish offensive staff.
NOTRE DAME CLASS IMPACT
Williams is the 21st commitment for the 2022 recruiting class, the 10th offensive commit and the third wide receiver to commit to the Irish in this class.
Notre Dame lost four wide receivers to transfer this offseason, including two of the three commitments from the 2020 class. Despite landing an outstanding trio of receivers in the 2021 class there was still a need for at least three wideouts in the 2022 class.
With Williams now joining Tobias Merriweather and Amorion Walker in the class the Fighting Irish have certainly met their minimum numbers need in the class.
Not only did Notre Dame meet its numbers needs the Irish have now landed arguably the top two outside receivers on their board. Merriweather and Williams have been priorities for months, and landing them in the same week was a coup for the Notre Dame staff.
Landing Williams also puts Notre Dame back up to the No. 2 spot in the class rankings from Rivals and 247Sports.
NOTRE DAME FIT
Williams can thrive on the outside and inside, and his versatility is one of many attributes that make him one of the nation's best pass catchers. Notre Dame recruited Williams as a slot receiver, but you can expect him to move all around the field. The Mater Dei star is a volume pass catcher, one that can rack up a lot of receptions and dominate as a chain mover and red zone weapon, but he's athletic enough to beat defenders down the field.
As a slot Williams can use his size, strength, quickness off the line and intelligence to work the middle of the field. Getting him in matchups against linebackers and safeties also allows Williams to maximize his athleticism, as he will have an even greater athleticism advantage over backers and safeties than he would at corners.
Williams is a precise route runner, which also combines nicely with his size and ball skills to fit well into the slot on vertical and more traditional pass concepts. He's shifty enough and good enough after the catch to be effective in the screen game and quick game.
Williams can also thrive as an outside receiver due to his length, route running and exceptional ball skills and body control. He can win one-on-one matchups, he can work free against zones and he can dominate on the perimeter routes Notre Dame likes to use in the boundary.
"There are many ways to be a dominant receiver, and while many like to obsess over speed and explosiveness, wideouts can dominate with size, strength, precise route running and/or top-notch ball skills as well.
"DeAndre Hopkins (Houston Texans, Arizona Cardinals) has four seasons with at least 104 receptions, at least four seasons with at least 1,378 yards and three seasons with at least 11 touchdowns. He ran a 4.57 at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"Michael Thomas (New Orleans Saints) has at least three seasons with at least 104 catches, and in 2019 he hauled in 149 passes for 1,725 yards. He ran a 4.57 at the Scouting Combine.
"Cooper Kupp (Los Angeles Rams) has back-to-back season with over 90 catches, and he ran a 4.61 at the combine. Jarvis Landry (Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns) has six seasons with at least 81 catches despite running a 4.65 at the combine and a 4.61 at the LSU Pro Day.
"The point? If you obsess over speed you'll likely not be very high on CJ Williams. If you understand there are a lot of traits and skills that can lead to a wideout being impactful, even without speed, you'll understand what makes him so impressive.
"That's the knock on Williams right there, he's not an overly fast player. He's not slow, but he's not a burner and he won't be someone that blows past college-level corners snap-after-snap. What he is, however, is a volume pass catcher in the mold of Hopkins, Thomas and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Williams has a strong, athletic frame, and he knows how to use his body to be an effective route runner, blocker and after-the-catch player.
"Williams is already a high-quality route runner, possessing an advanced understanding of leverage, body manipulation and working free out of his top ends. Williams uses this advanced feel to be impactful against the zone and he uses his route technique, strength and ball skills to work free against man coverage. His strength and long arms combine with his top-notch body control to allow Williams to make plays without separation, and it projects to be a weapon at the next level.
"I'd like to see Williams improve his stance, which would eliminate his false step and allow him to maximize his speed off the line, but he accelerates well out of breaks and showed improved long speed as a junior in just five games.
"Williams uses his hands extremely well as a route runner and he shows excellent concentration on contested catches. He tracks the deep ball effectively, is willing to make tough catches in traffic over the middle and he is a weapon on one-on-one plays on the perimeter. Williams attacks the football in the air and he has fast hands.
"The Mater Dei star is the kind of pass catcher that will usually average somewhere between 13-15 yards per catch, and be more of a 70+ catch that is a weapon as a chain-mover, on third-down and in the red zone. He'll be a nightmare against the zone, highly effective working perimeter routes and he can play inside just as effectively as he can work outside. In the Notre Dame offense he would fit extremely well at all three positions, with the boundary spot being his best spot, but he could move around and will give whoever he plays for in college a player that can be game-planned to move all over the field."
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