Williams Return Energizes Defensive Line

Fifth-year senior defensive lineman Nathan Williams returned to action Saturday, and his reappearance led to plenty of happy faces among Ohio State coaches and players. Read on to find out more about Williams' return to the Leo position and how it affects the defensive line.

Saturday was a good day and a not-so-good one for junior defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins.

It wasn't great because Miami's quick-passing offense made it difficult for Hankins to make his mark from the inside of the Ohio State defensive line. Hankins recorded only two tackles – though he told reporters Monday that he made sure to "deliver a blow" on both stops – and was a non-factor thanks in large part to the RedHawks' offensive approach.

Still, the game was a positive one for Hankins, too. It wasn't just because the Buckeyes crushed Miami (Ohio) in a 56-10 rout, but Hankins had fifth-year senior Nathan Williams back on the field again.

"It was great to see him out there," Hankins said. "He was very excited and pumped. Just to see him out there was good. He's getting better each and every day. I'm so happy to see him out there this weekend,"

Williams, as Ohio State fans well know, only played in one game last season. Microfracture surgery on his knee kept him on the sidelines, and the Buckeyes felt his absence defensively. Ohio State finished 6-7 last season as Williams watched helplessly, unable to man his spot at the Leo position on the defensive line.

The Washington Court House, Ohio, native drew praise from new Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer since Meyer's arrival in January, as Meyer had often told reporters he saw how much Williams missed the game and wanted to return. That time finally came on Saturday. Williams did not start but saw plenty of action, so much so that it surprised Meyer.

Meyer told reporters on Monday that Williams played approximately 30 snaps.

"He played a little bit more (than expected), and he was very sore yesterday," Meyer said. "They're off today. I'll see them today, but I would anticipate that the rust is officially knocked off him and we'll be ready to go. He was in a good mindset after that game."

Like Hankins, Williams only recorded a pair of tackles – both solo stops – but was all smiles after the game.

"It's unbelievable, man," Williams said of his return. "To have something taken away from you and get it back, it's awesome. I took it on. I'm in the best shape of my life, from this year to now. I've sacrificed a lot and given countless hours of work.

"Just to be out there and to be with my guys and perform again is so, so relieving. I'm happy for my guys, my coaches and myself."

Williams passed a test on the Monday before the game and was again tested Saturday morning by defensive coordinator Luke Fickell and defensive line coach Mike Vrabel before officially getting the OK to play.

"We worked him out before the game, and you could see the passion come back out of him," Fickell said. "He needs to be on the field to show that passion and to feel good about himself. We need him and want him, but I think he needs and wants us every bit as much, too."

That feeling was evident on the field, according to Hankins. Williams' presence just changes things on the defensive line alongside Hankins, John Simon and Garrett Goebel.

"When he's out there, I don't have to say anything to him," Hankins said. "He already knows what to do. With him and Johnny and me and Garrett, when we're all on the field it's just like a sense of relaxation that we know everything is going to happen, everybody is going to do their job.

"With him in the lineup, it's just great for us."

Hankins might not have to say anything to Williams, but he might. Williams nearly recorded a sack in the first quarter before Miami QB Zac Dysert eluded his grasp.

"He was pretty mad about it himself, so I didn't want to rub it in too much," Hankins said. "But I might give it to him tomorrow in practice and let him know he's got to wrap up."

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