It’s not always easy to convince a high school football star who is accustomed to the sunshine and warm weather of southern California to pack up and spend four years in the… let’s say… less-consistent weather of Central Ohio.
That definitely was not an issue with Ohio State freshman safety Kourt Williams.
“Coming to a school like this was almost a no brainer,” said Williams. “In terms of academics, and how it is out here socially, and of course football wise, it just felt like the perfect decision.”
Williams was listed as a linebacker by many recruiting sources, but will start his career as a Bullet, the hybrid linebacker/safety role at Ohio State.
“During my recruiting, that was one of the biggest things they talked to me about,” Williams said. “It’s kind of what I did in high school. So basically like the perfect fit just in terms of my playing style.”
That fit gave the Ohio State coaches a good sense for where Williams would slot in on the field. But OSU head coach Ryan Day is expecting big things from Williams off-the-field as well.
“Kourt, I’ll be surprised if he’s not a captain when he’s here,” Day said on Early Signing Day in December.
Williams compared his game to Pete Werner, the SAM linebacker who played a big role in the Buckeyes’ 2019 defense. But he’s also a little bit reminiscent of Clemson’s do-it-all hybrid star Isaiah Simmons, who is about to be a high first-round pick in this spring’s NFL raft.
“Simmons is a little bit longer. Kourt is maybe a little bit more compact and bigger, but the same idea,” Day said. “You can use different things with them, and those are the kind of guys you want.”
Williams was the kind of player a lot of programs wanted. He picked the Buckeyes over offers from programs like Oklahoma, Alabama, Penn State, Georgia, Oregon, and Michigan, as well as in-state UCLA and USC.
Ohio State has had success going into different regions of the country when the local schools are in something of a down cycle.
They got Vonn Bell, Raekwon McMillan, and Trey Johnson out of Georgia when the Mark Richt era hit a low point at UGA. Baron Browning, Jeff Okudah, and JK Dobbins all left the state of Texas during the dying days of the Charlie Strong era at UT and the downhill slide of Kevin Sumlin’s time at Texas A&M.
Recently, they’ve had success getting players like Wyatt Davis and Chris Olave out of California while USC and UCLA seem to be spinning their wheels. Williams comes from the same high school in southern California that produced Davis, but the freshman safety said he was planning to leave home no matter what was happening with the Trojans and Bruins.
“I knew I wanted to go far away. Staying close to home wasn’t really one of the biggest things for me. Wasn’t a knock on the West Coast schools. I just wanted to have a different experience,” Williams said.
So far, besides the snow, one of the biggest ways he’s had a different experience is how hard the Buckeyes’ strength staff works him.
“The strength and the conditioning in terms of the weight room has been great. They really push us to the limits in terms of how strong we will be mentally and physically. So in terms of my body, I’m already starting to see a difference,” he said.
He’ll take the next step in his growth when he steps on the field for his first collegiate practice next week. Williams said that he was open to playing wherever the coaching staff though he fit best, whether that was as a linebacker, Bullet, or deep safety. Whatever position he ends up calling home, there’s no question in Williams’ mind that he can contribute.
“I can cover and I can fit in the run. I’m not afraid to get my nose dirty and hit,” he said. “Guarding those receivers, tight ends, I can do that.”