The names Terrell Williams has coached should be enough to turn heads of recruits, and it’s a good indication of the type of talent developer he is. At Purdue (2006-09), Williams coached Cliff Avril, Ryan Kerrigan and Anthony Spencer. He took the same job on the Texas A&M staff (2010-11) and turned Damontre Moore into one of the most feared defensive linemen in the country.
Then he left the college game to get NFL experience while serving as the defensive line coach for three years with the Oakland Raiders.
But the numbers and résumé become even more impressive when you take a deeper look. We’ll start with Williams’ career with major FBS programs, beginning when he left Akron to take the defensive line coach job at Purdue in 2006.
Williams took over a Purdue defensive line that was fairly unproductive in 2005, the year before he got there. That season, Cliff Avril (33 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss) and Anthony Spencer (23 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles) both played well but still had room to grow.
Williams made that happen.
In 2006, the first year under Williams, both broke out. Avril, a native of Green Cove Springs, Fla. and graduate of Clay High School, jumped to 84 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, six sacks, six pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Spencer, a nose guard and fullback in high school, ended the 2006 season with 93 tackles, 26.5 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. The 26.5 tackles for a loss is the fifth-best number in Big Ten history. Spencer graduated after the 2006 season and was selected in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys with the 26th overall pick. Still with the Cowboys, Spencer was a 2012 Pro Bowl selection by posting 11 sacks that season and has 33 sacks and 12 forced fumbles in his career.
Avril returned for the 2007 season and totaled 41 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, six pass deflections. He graduated after the 2007 season and was a fourth round pick by the Detroit Lions. Avril was named to the Sports Illustrated All-Rookie Team in 2008 with the Lions and won a Super Bowl on the Seattle Seahawks. Last month, Avril signed a four-year extension with the Seahawks for $28.5 million.
But behind Avril in 2007, Williams was also developing the future of the Purdue defensive line. A freshman named Ryan Kerrigan played off the bench and made 18 tackles and one tackle for a loss, but there was still plenty of room to grow.
That breakout year came in 2008 when Kerrigan totaled 56 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception. He took another step forward in 2009 under Williams with 66 tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss, 13 sacks, seven forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
By the time Kerrigan’s Purdue career was over, he tied the all-time FBS record with 14 forced fumbles in a career, was second all-time at Purdue with 33.5 sacks and fifth in Purdue history with 57 tackles for a loss. Kerrigan also became the first unanimous All-American at Purdue since 1980 and the seventh in school history when he earned the honor in 2010.
The Washington Redskins took Kerrigan in the first round with the 16th overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft. He was voted to the Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie Team in 2011 and to the Pro Bowl in 2012. In his four-year career, Kerrigan has 247 tackles, 38 sacks and 15 forced fumbles.
In 2009, the Purdue defense ranked 21st nationally with 2.6 sacks per game.
With Avril, Kerrigan and Spencer, Williams was able to develop three dominant edge rushers, but he also developed solid defensive tackle play in his time at Purdue.
Mike Neal came off the bench in 2006 before Williams and got better in every season once Williams took over. In 2007, Neal made 22 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks. In 2008, his numbers jumped to 33 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks. In his senior year in 2009, they jumped to 35 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks. Neal ended his Purdue career and was chosen in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers.
Neal is still on the Packers’ roster and has 97 tackles with 15 career sacks in five seasons.
When the 2009 season ended, Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman made a call and got Williams added to his staff in College Station. The Aggies’ defensive line struggled the year before and didn’t return many impact players.
Defensive tackle Tony Jerod-Eddie jumped from 23 tackles to 49 tackles in Williams’ first season. In 2011, Jerod-Eddie made an even bigger jump to 56 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and five sacks. Jerod-Eddie currently plays for the San Francisco 49ers and has played in all but one game over the last two years, including four starts.
Williams was able to develop Texas A&M defensive lineman Damontre Moore into one of the best defensive linemen in the country. As a freshman in 2010, Moore came off the bench and made 40 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. As a sophomore in 2011, Moore made a big jump to 72 tackles, 17.5 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two quarterback hurries. His career ended with 26.5 sacks, sixth in school history.
Moore was projected as a first-round pick early but fell to the third round because he didn’t test well at the NFL combine. The New York Giants selected him with the 81st overall pick, and he has 40 tackles and 5.5 sacks in his first two seasons in the NFL.
The development of Jerod-Eddie and Moore are impressive, but the defensive numbers as a whole make it more obvious what Williams did in College Station.
He took over the spot on a Texas A&M team that was 91st (172 yards per game) in rush defense the year before he arrived. In Williams’ first year, that number improved to the 30th (130 yards per game) best rush defense. In his second year during 2011, the Texas A&M defense was 12th best nationally against the run, allowing 102 yards per game.
The group was also 38th in sacks nationally during Williams’ first year at the helm of the defensive line in 2010. In 2011, the Aggies led the country with 51 sacks.
Williams was also the only coach that Kevin Sumlin retained on his staff, but the defensive line coach left after National Signing Day to take the same position with the Oakland Raiders.
When Williams joined the Raiders, he was taking over a defensive tackle with underperforming players. Defensive tackle Lamarr Houston was coming off a season with 51 tackles and one sack, but he was widely viewed as having more talent than that.
In Williams’ first season with the Raiders, Houston jumped to 69 tackles, four sacks and one forced fumble. The next year in 2013, Houston recorded 69 tackles, six sacks and two forced fumbles. Those were his best two seasons, both coming with Williams at the helm.
After the 2013 season, Houston became a free agent, and his work under Williams earned him a five-year, $35 million contract with the Chicago Bears.
Williams also helped defensive lineman Vance Walker have the best season of his six-year career, posting 40 tackles and three sacks in 2013. That season earned him a three-year, $13 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs in the offseason.