Notre Dame Football: Jhonny Williams

Newcomers stepping up on Irish D

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
10:00
AM ET
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- OK, so there was some pretty big news Wednesday out of Notre Dame. You can read and hear all about that here and here. But Brian Kelly did name some other starters for Week 1 against Rice.

The biggest surprise? Early enrollee Andrew Trumbetti will be the starter at weak-side defensive end, where Romeo Okwara had appeared to have the initial leg-up. Ishaq Williams is the other starting end.

"We think that he’s got a huge upside for us in so many areas that sometimes I don’t talk about him enough," Kelly said of Trumbetti. "But a great motor, physical, smart, does all the things that we ask him to do. But again, you’ve got to keep in mind we’re talking about first-and second-down players."

Another first-teamer, a name that is considerably less shocking than Trumbetti's, is Florida transfer Cody Riggs, who will start opposite KeiVarae Russell at cornerback.

Kelly repeatedly praised the approach of his defensive freshmen, saying that tackle Jonathan Bonner is in the two-deep, that linebacker Kolin Hill and lineman Jhonny Williams are third-down pass-rushers, and that linebacker Nyles Morgan will play.

While Kelly admitted that he probably would have been uneasy counting on so many rookies to contribute in the front seven, he says his eyes tell him different when he watches them every day on the practice field.

There is also, of course, a new defensive coordinator in Brian VanGorder. Kelly was asked if the new scheme is easier to grasp than what former coordinator Bob Diaco ran.

"They can go. There’s a lot more going on. There’s a lot more pieces to this," Kelly said. "But Brian let’s them run and let’s them go. And so that’s why a lot of these young guys can just, in the places that he’s putting them, in the fronts that he’s calling with Nyles Morgan, he’s not asking him to two-gap anybody. He’s saying, ‘Listen, we’re going to cover everybody. Just go run. Go make a play.’ And some of the freshmen are getting similar kind of front calls where they can just pin their ears back and go."
Brian Kelly spoke with reporters on national signing day for more than an hour. Here's a quick look at his thoughts on each of the 23 additions to the Irish roster:

Justin Brent (Speedway, Ind./Speedway): "When I got a chance to see him work out this morning, the first thing that stood out to me is that he does not look like a freshman. He had his shirt off this morning and he was running around, and he looks like a senior."

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame defensive end commit Andrew Trumbetti, the No. 2-ranked prospect in the state of New Jersey, shows off his Under Armour gear.
Courtesy of IntersportDE Andrew Trumbetti's athleticism -- he returned kicks in high school -- is just one of the things that impressed the Irish.
Andrew Trumbetti (Demarest, N.J./Northern Valley Region): "The thing that really put him over the top for us is when we were watching his film, he was returning kickoffs in high school, and not many times do you see a defensive lineman returning kickoffs."

Alex Bars (Nashville/Montgomery Bell Academy): "Dad played here, it's an easy leap; not so much. Sometimes you've got to work harder to get that young man to come to Notre Dame because he wants to go off on his own sometimes."

Grant Blankenship (The Colony, Texas/The Colony): "We got three players from Texas, all of them offered by the University of Texas. I don't know if that happens very often."

Jonathan Bonner (Chesterfield, Mo./Parkway Central): "When you talk about the right fit to Notre Dame, Jonathan possessed all of the right characteristics, academics, socially, and then as a football player."

Jimmy Byrne (Cleveland/Saint Ignatius): "Physical, moves his feet well, and again, I think what you'll see with all of our offensive linemen, they all can get out and move their feet. They all have the ability to run block, pass pro."

Daniel Cage (Cincinnati/Winton Woods):
"This guy is a ferocious player. He's an inside player, and we love the way he got off the ball. His strength, lower body strength, he's a guy that's going to play the shade, he can play the nose."

Jay Hayes (Brooklyn, N.Y./Poly Prep Country Day): "One of his quotes when I was with him was, ‘Coach, some of these guys don't get it. They don't really understand why you would come to Notre Dame.’ And he's such a thoughtful kid at his age that he understands why he would come to Notre Dame for all the right reasons, getting a degree and opening up doors for him for the rest of his life."

Kolin Hill (Schertz, Texas/Samuel Clemens): "A right fit for Notre Dame, character, high energy, yes, sir, no, sir, had all those things that we really liked. He was engaging. Really impressed our admissions people."

Corey Holmes (Fort Lauderdale, Fl./Saint Thomas Aquinas): "He has a lot of the same feelings in terms of where TJ Jones developed, but he's 6-2. This kid is longer. He's a bigger kid than TJ. But he's got a lot of those mannerisms and characteristics. "

DeShone Kizer (Toledo, Ohio/Central Catholic): "He's going to be able to do the multidimensional things that we love. Now we've got three quarterbacks on campus that all do the same things."

[+] EnlargeTyler Luatua
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTE Tyler Luatua made an impression on and off the field with Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly.
Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada): "People said, ‘Well, he didn't talk enough. He wasn't engaging enough. I didn't hear enough from him.’ I said, ‘Well, you just don't know him well enough because when you get to know Tyler Luatua, he's just like Justin Utupo; you can't shut him up.’"

Greer Martini (Woodberry Forest, Va./Woodberry Forest School): "His leadership skills, his ability to recognize and really -- you have to have leaders. He's a really good player, and he's a really good leader, and he'll be a very good linebacker for us here at Notre Dame and will also be a guy that makes others around him better."

Peter Mokwuah (Staten Island, N.Y./St. Joseph-By-The-Sea): "We've had a great Nigerian connection here, Romeo Okwara, Prince Shembo, just to name a few, and then Pete was able to connect Catholic institution, goes to a Catholic school. That profile fit very well for us."

Nyles Morgan (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee): "Every time I'm with him, he just wants to talk about football, and he's a good student, and his mom and dad want him to just talk about academics, and he's a good student and he recognizes the value of getting a degree at Notre Dame."

Sam Mustipher (Olney, Md./Our Lady of Good Counsel): "All these guys can be big and strong and physical, but if they can't move their feet, if they can't bend, if they can't get out of their stance and do a good job and moving and bending, then we're moving on, and I think -- I sound like a broken record with the offensive line, but those are the characteristics."

Quenton Nelson (Red Bank, N.J./Red Bank Catholic): "He's going to come after you play after play after play. And again, his desire to want to be great is what always stood out about Quenton is that he's always pushing himself. Every time we talk to him he's coming back from something."

Tyler Newsome (Carrollton, Ga./Carrollton): "He was such an intriguing young man in all the kids that we saw that when we saw him punting, there was nobody that was even close to with the potential upside that he has. "

Nile Sykes (Lombard, Ill./Montini Catholic): "We want people that want to be part of Notre Dame and be part of our family, and to bring Nile and his family in, he's a versatile player. He can play inside, he can play outside."

Drue Tranquill (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll): "People have asked does he play safety, does he play running back? I don't know where he plays, but he's going to play somewhere here at Notre Dame because he's a darned good football player."

Nick Watkins (Dallas/Bishop Dunne): "This is draft day, you're getting a No. 1 draft pick. This kid is an exceptional football player. We think we got one of the best corners around. Long, athletic, can really do a lot of things for us."

Nic Weishar (Chicago, Ill./Marist): "He's the finest pass catching tight end that we saw. You could argue about who it is, but we think he is. We love his ball skills, we love his ability to use his body to control defenders, has a knack of catching the football in the air and taking it away from people. "

Jhonny Williams (Berrien Springs, Mich./Berrien Springs): "There's no ceiling on Jhonny Williams' future. He's an engaging young man. He just recognizes that he's got a great opportunity at Notre Dame, and we're excited to provide him that opportunity."

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