Buckeye Football Freshman Focus: Cornerback Marcus Williamson

Marcus Williamson Kerry Coombs Ohio State Football

Marcus Williamson played high school football in nearby Westerville, Ohio prior to transferring to IMG Academy for his senior season. He was a First-Team All-State pick for Westerville South as a junior, and an Under Armour All-American as a senior.

With IMG as a senior he scored two touchdowns on defense and recorded 36 tackles.

Williamson enrolled at Ohio State in January, so he took part in winter conditioning and spring football.

Listed at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, he is not the tall cornerback that Ohio State likes to target, but he has his own unique skill set that looks to be more than sufficient.

Williamson had a very strong spring rotating in mostly with the second unit.

What to Like

When Marcus Williamson was signed, I always mentioned him as a possible free safety down the road because of his size and ability to cover slot receivers. During the spring he stayed at cornerback, but did get reps at nickel as well. In Ohio State’s defense, the free safety is basically a slot corner, which is basically a nickel back on early downs.

In the spring game, Williamson played quite a bit of nickel and even found himself matched up against tight end Luke Farrell, who has him by about eight inches and 70 pounds. Here he is at the bottom of the screen chasing Farrell. There’s not a lot to see here, but it does give you an idea of the strain that Kevin Wilson’s passing game puts on a defense.

There is plenty to be encouraged about when it comes to Williamson in the slot. Watch how well he stays with K.J. Hill here in the slot. Don’t forget to give him credit for the veteran-like grab.

Here he is chasing K.J. Hill on a jet sweep. He gets through the traffic pretty well. He would have made the tackle after about an 8-yard gain, but sophomore linebacker Keandre Jones got there first.

It is important to point out, however, that Williamson is not just an inside defender. He is an aggressive edge defender, which Ohio State’s cornerbacks have to be. He isn’t the biggest guy, but that doesn’t seem to affect his play.

Here are two screens that he defended in the Spring Game. The first one he recognizes immediately and stops the play in the backfield. The second recognition was a tick slower, but still likely would have been stopped quickly, provided he tackles as soundly as he covers. Both plays occur at the top of the screen.

The Potential

Williamson showed up very quickly as a player to watch. In the spring he appeared to learn from each rep. He was asked to do a lot for the Buckeyes. Not only was he at cornerback, but he was also asked to play nickel and also to do some special teams. That’s a bunch to put on a kid’s plate who should still be in high school. Williamson said on signing day that playing at IMG prepared him well for his new routine, and he proved it in the spring.

Williamson could stay at cornerback or he may eventually head to safety. Perhaps he finds a home at nickel back for a while before Kerry Coombs and Greg Schiano decide on his ultimate position. Coombs won’t give him up freely, however, and given Williamson’s potential, he may not have to.

The Expectations

I would not be surprised to see Williamson begin his Buckeye career with a long look at nickel back. It is a natural progression for cornerbacks. Both Marshon Lattimore and Damon Arnette did it, and Williamson has the skill set to match up well with smaller, quicker slot receivers.

How quickly will he play? With needs for good tacklers and fast players on special teams, he will get a crack at several special units this season. Can he work his way into the two-deep at corner or nickel? Don’t be surprised if he does.

The Bottom Line

Marcus Williamson isn’t your prototype 6-foot-2 cornerback, but he is a fearless defender with quick hips and long arms. Offenses are so versatile now that you need defenders to match them up. Williamson is a matchup guy. If you need him in the slot, he can do that. If you need him out wide, he’s fine there as well. He doesn’t hesitate when it comes to the running game, and triggers quickly enough to overcome blockers.

Basically, he is a utility defender who gives the Ohio State defense some options now, but especially down the road.