The stout Cardinal defense starts with the defensive line. In 2015, Shittu and Brennan Scarlett got in the backfield frequently on the way to a season capped off with a Rose Bowl win.
It’s the unit as a whole where the Cardinal thrive. In the 2015 season, Blake Martinez led the team with 141 tackles, the next tackler, Aziz Shittu, had 57. Between Shittu and the Cardinal's next fourteen tacklers, there was a difference of just 27 tackles.
It’s a force, and the first wave of that force comes with the defensive line.
Mike Williams wants to be a part of that first wave.
Standing at 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, the defensive lineman flat out gets to the quarterback.
Williams is fueled by Tex-Mex cuisine and the man who is Uncle Julio on Twitter and Yung Pineapple on Instagram proclaims himself as “goofiest guy you will meet in this lifetime”.
The fun-loving Williams is very open that he doesn’t “love” school. Before Cardinal fans hit the “panic button”, know he wants greatness for on the field and in the classroom.
“Being great is pushing myself past what I thought what my limits were. I didn’t really love school that much. I don’t really mind it, but I don’t love it, so I sat there thinking ,’If I go to Stanford, it will be a fight till the end and it’s going to be a struggle’,” Williams said.
“I sat there and told myself ‘You can’t be scared to fight every day’. I wanted to do that, I wanted to see if I could stack up against some of the smartest kids in the nation and I made my decision there.”
So that was that. Williams signed with the Cardinal over the likes of Texas and other top programs. He already has a relationship with Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas, the two are both from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and has sought guidance from the junior defensive end so Williams can be ready for his freshman year. With Aziz Shittu and Brennan Scarlett moving on, Williams could see the field early in his career.
“I wanted to learn from Solomon. I watched him in high school, and I know if we pass on the legacy that it’s nothing but greatness for us. Just learning from the older kids, just learning how to act, just learning when to do this, when to do that, just teaching us the way of D-Lineman.“
He also has a strong relationship with newly-hired defensive line coach Diron Reynolds. Williams actually talked to Reynolds, who held the same position with Oklahoma, the day before signing day. He describes recently-retired defensive line coach Randy Hart as “one of my favorite dudes”, but is also excited to work with Reynolds. The four-star signee constantly sends workout film to his coach to receive guidance and adjustments before he heads to The Farm.
So that begs the question: What type of player should the Cardinal faithful expect when the 2016 season rolls around?
“I can actually make plays sideline to sideline,” Williams said. “I’ve can run with people and people don’t expect me to be as quick laterally as I am. So I describe it versatile and powerful.”
And he has a few thoughts when staring down an offensive lineman…though he wouldn’t share them.
“The thoughts coming to my head, I can’t really say,” Williams joked.
“I’m trying to break him, I’m trying to get in his head, I’m trying to make plays,” Williams said. “When I’m looking at him, he knows and I know we’re about to fight each other. It’s going to be a battle and one of us is going to come out on top.”
Whether it be on the field or in the classroom, Williams is ready for battle.