The Pittsburgh Steelers reportedly will have Nevada safety Duke Williams in for a pre draft visit at some point, and once again, our scouting buddy Dave-Te\’ Thomas was kind enough to give us his detailed scouting report profile on him, which you can read below. Make sure to listen to the latest episode of the podcast as we had Thomas on for nearly a full hour talking about the Steelers draft and prospects.
MICHAEL “Duke” WILLIAMS
University of Nevada Wolf Pack
Procter R. Hug High School
The safety position is the “last bastion” of defense for a team, with their primary objective of keeping the opponent out of the end zone. Few collegiate safeties have had as much success in performing that task than that of the Wolf Pack’s Michael “Duke” Williams. Even though he is projected as a free safety prospect on most National Football League draft boards, the hard-hitting tackler has built quite a reputation for his run-stuffing skills.
Williams’ ability to step inside the box and play like a linebacker, despite measuring in at just over 200 pounds played a major role in Nevada winning twenty games during the course of his sophomore and junior seasons, despite operating with a defense that struggled to contain the rushing attack in 2011, as the Pack ranked 56th in the nation vs. the run, allowing 147.38 yards per game.
Their numbers would have been much worse, if not for Williams’ stellar play in containing ball carriers. As a junior, he made 53 plays vs. the running game, limiting the opponent to just 151 yards (2.85 ypc). Against the rest of the Nevada defense, opponents averaged 4.74 yards per rushing attempt.
In 2012, the Pack ranked 110th among the 120 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams in stopping the run, yielding 211.85 yards per game. Meanwhile, the strong safety had to come out of position often in run support, posting eight touchdown-saving tackles while making 62 plays and holding ball carriers to 103 yards, an average of 1.67 yards per attempt.
During his junior campaign, Williams also made ten touchdown-saving tackles after the team’s “front wall” missed containing those runners at the line of scrimmage, as that total was the most by a major college safety in a season since Steve Atwater of Arkansas posted eleven touchdown-saving tackles in 1988. He delivered five of his tackles for loss, in addition to taking down runners at the line of scrimmage for no gain four times.
In all areas of his game as a senior (vs. the run, pass and special teams), Williams produced an incredible seventeen touchdown-saving tackles during his final campaign (eight vs. the run, eight vs. the pass, one as a member of the kickoff coverage unit).
In 38 starting assignments for the Wolf Pack, Williams has been in on a total of 173 plays vs. the run, holding those ball carriers to 391 yards (2.26 ypc). The rest of the Nevada defense yielded an average of 4.86 yards vs. the ground game during that span. During those 38 starts, the safety went on to record twenty-nine touchdown-saving tackles in run support, the most of any active player in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision ranks, including defensive linemen.
However, Williams is not a one-dimension defender, as he also excels in shutting down the passing game. He’s had 232 passes targeted into his area, allowing just 56 of those tosses to be completed (24.14%) for 587 yards, an average of 10.48 yards per pass completion and 2.53 yards per pass attempt. During that same span, opponents completed 59.18% of their passes for an average of 13.02 yards per completion and 7.71 yards per attempt vs. the rest of the Nevada defensive unit.
What makes those numbers even more impressive is the fact that Williams had to come out from his area to deliver twenty-five touchdown-saving tackles vs. the aerial game, after opponents had managed to escape the grasp of other Wolf Pack defenders. He jammed or rerouted receivers away from 112 of those 232 passes targeted into his area (48.28%) in addition to defending twenty-one of those tosses (eighteen pass deflections, three interceptions). He also proved to be an excellent “drive killer,” as he produced 68 third-down stops and five more on fourth-down plays vs. the passing game.
Prior to his arrival in the collegiate ranks, Williams starred at Reno’s Procter R. Hug High School, where he guided the Hawks to a sixth-place ranking in the state during his senior season. The quarterback and defensive back garnered All-Division 4A, All-Northern/High Desert and Northern Nevada Player of the Year honors, as he averaged 7.7 points per game, throwing for eleven touchdowns on just 41-of-89 pass attempts. He also had three interceptions for the defensive unit in 2008, earning All-State defensive honors in each of his three final seasons.
Williams’ began his prep career as a member of a Hawks’ squad that finished second in the state of Nevada with a 12-2 record. During his sophomore season, he recorded 56 tackles with a pair of interceptions as a safety, in addition to averaging 4.24 yards per rushing attempt and completing 30-of-77 passes for 430 yards and five touchdowns.
The team struggled to a 5-6 mark during Williams’ junior season, despite seeing their multi-talented player gain 427 yards with five touchdowns on 71 carries (6.01 ypc), throw for 458 yards with three scores and catch four passes for 31 yards and another touch-down. He finished his high school career earning a total of twelve varsity letters in football, basketball and track. He was part of a 4×100 relay team that broke the state record at 41.34 seconds and was ranked in the top ten in the nation in triple jump.
Williams garnered All-North Sierra League, All-Division 4A and All-North High Desert honors during his basketball career. The team finished 17th in the state during his sophomore season, followed by a junior campaign that saw him average 15.6 points, 2.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game in 2007/08. As a senior, he finished with averages of 17.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.
It was tempting for Williams to enroll at Southern California after the Trojans offered him a scholarship in 2008, as former USC star, Ronnie Lott, was his sports hero, but in the end, he decided to stay close to home and signed his national letter of intent to attend the University of Nevada on June 20th, 2008. He was also pursued by Boise State, Brigham Young, Fresno State, Nevada-Las Vegas, Oregon, Washington and Washington State before making his final decision.
It was a trying season for the true freshman away from the field in 2009, as he was twice suspended from the team. He appeared in eleven games, finishing with 29 tackles (21 solos) for a struggling secondary that ranked 119th in the nation vs. the pass, allowing 297.77 yards per game. He spent most of that campaign performing for the kickoff coverage squad, delivering twelve tackles for that unit.
Williams sat out the 2010 season opener for a violation of team rules, but earned Scout Team Player of the Week honors for his stellar play in practice leading up to that game. The sophomore was scheduled to start at free safety, but when strong safety Corbin Louks went down with an injury in the opener, the coaching staff decided to insert Williams into the lineup at that position upon his return to the field.
The sophomore started eleven of the thirteen games he appeared in, as the Pack finished 98th in the nation vs. the pass in 2010, giving up 243.29 yards per game. Those totals would have been much worse, if not for their new starting strong safety. He placed third on the team with 74 tackles (51 solos) that included 4.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage and two forced fumbles. He added five more hits for the kickoff coverage squad and had a pair of interceptions, along with four pass break-ups.
That season, Williams made 41 plays vs. the ground game, limiting ball carriers to an average of 2.66 yards per attempt while coming up with eight touchdown-saving stops. Against the pass, he had 68 balls targeted into his area, rerouting opponents away from 29 of those attempts (42.65%), as he allowed 23 receptions for 254 yards (11.04 yards per completion/3.74 yards per attempt), as he added four more touchdown-saving tackles vs. the aerial game.
In their final season in the Western Athletic Conference, Williams garnered All-WAC first-team honors in 2011. He started all thirteen games at strong safety, registering 83 tackles (58 solos), third-best on the team. He intercepted a pass, deflected six others and had 4.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He also recovered a fumble.
On 68 passes targeted into his area, Williams rerouted/jammed his assignments on 37 attempts (54.41%), yielding just sixteen catches for 164 yards (10.25 yards per pass completion), as his average of 2.41 yards per pass attempt was the lowest for any player in the conference. Only ten of those grabs produced first downs, as he delivered 23 third-down stops vs. the aerial game.
Williams earned first-team All-Mountain Conference honors as a senior. He donned jersey #5 as a senior after wearing #20 his first three seasons with the Wolf Pack. He finished second on the team with a career-high 106 tackles (68 solos), delivering 5.5 stops for loss, in addition to causing three fumbles and recovering another that he advanced 51 yards.
Williams started 38-of-50 games at strong safety for Nevada, recording 292 tackles (198 solos) with 14.5 stops for losses of 52 yards, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries that he advanced 58 yards, adding 30 tackles as a member of the kickoff coverage unit…Deflected eighteen passes and gained 69 yards on four interceptions… Returned nine kickoffs for 186 yards (20.67 avg)…The safety has made a total of 173 plays vs. the run, holding those ball carriers to 391 yards (2.26 ypc), no touchdowns and just eleven first downs. The rest of the Nevada defense yielded an average of 4.86 yards vs. the ground game during that span…Leads the nation’s active players with a total of 29 touch-down-saving tackles when asked to come out of his area to make stops after opponents escaped other Nevada defenders…His ten touchdown-saving tackles vs. the ground attack in 2011 was the most by a collegiate safety in a season since Steve Atwater of Arkansas posted eleven touchdown-saving tackles in 1988…As a senior, he has posted eight touch-down-saving tackles vs. the rushing attack…Delivered 18 tackles-for-loss (solos/assists) with sixteen third-down hits and two more on fourth-down snaps while also stopping seventeen ball carriers at the line of scrimmage for no gain vs. the ground game…Against the pass, opponents targeted 232 throws into his area, completing 56 (24.14%) for 587 yards, one touchdown and 35 first downs, as the safety rerouted/jammed his coverage assignment on 112 pass plays (48.28%) and made twenty-five touchdown-saving tackles vs. the pass…Those receivers averaged 10.48 yards per pass completion and 2.53 yards per attempt…His average yield of 2.41 yards per pass attempt in 2011 was the lowest for any safety in the major college ranks for that season and he also leads the safeties again in 2012 with an average of 2.22 yards per attempt…During that same span, opponents completed 59.18% of their passes for an average of 13.02 yards per completion and 7.71 yards per attempt vs. the rest of the Nevada defensive unit…An excellent “drive killer,” as he produced 68 third-down stops and five more on fourth-down plays vs. the passing game…Also excelled in tight areas, delivering 50 stops inside the red zone, including 22 on goal-line plays…Playing with the kickoff coverage squad, 24 of his 30 tackles were solo efforts, as he made twelve of those hits inside the 20-yard line, caused one fumble and produced two touchdown-saving tackle (on an 86-yard runback vs. Idaho in 2010 and a 44-yard runback vs. Hawaii in 2012.
Williams earned consensus All-Mountain West Conference first-team honors while starting all thirteen games at strong safety…Switched to jersey #5 for his final campaign after wearing jersey #20 the previous three seasons…Recorded a career-high 106 tackles (68 solos) with 5.5 stops for minus 32 yards, as he caused three fumbles and advanced a fumble recovery 51 yards…Also had a 27-yard interception return and deflected eight passes…Rerouted his coverage assignments away from 38 of the 76 throws targeted into his area (50.00%)…Allowed seventeen of those balls to be caught (22.37%) for 169 yards, an average of 9.94 yards per completion and 2.22 yards per pass attempt…Delivered eight touchdown-saving tackles vs. the pass, eight more vs. the ground game and one other with the kickoff coverage unit…Made 62 tackles vs. ball carriers, limiting those runners to 103 yards (1.67 ypc), as he stopped runners at the line of scrimmage for no gain eleven times, in addition registering eight tackles-for-loss (solos and assists)…Registered four solo tackles for the kickoff coverage unit, including one that stopped a runback at the USF 8-yard line vs. South Florida…Posted six tackles (4 solos) with a pass deflection, twice keeping California off the scoreboard with touchdown-saving stops…Put on a tremendous performance vs. South Florida, playing with a “search and destroy” mission that saw three South Florida players go to the sidelines with injuries after Duke delivered crunching blows, including star USF receiver Sterling Griffin, who suffered ligament damage in his right knee during first half action when Williams drilled the opponent on an incomplete pass. Williams would go on to lead the Pack with a career-high thirteen stops (6 solos) that included a trio of touchdown-saving tackles. He also deflected two passes and rerouted receivers away from six other throws…The strong safety proved to be a stellar “last line of defense” for the Pack vs. Northwestern State, again pacing the team with twelve tackles (10 solos), marking the fourth time in his career that the strong safety recorded double-digit tackles in a contest and the second consecutive game he reached that level…For the first time on over sixty years, the Wolf Pack left Hawaii with a victory, as they downed the Warriors, 69-24, to snap a seven-game losing streak in Honolulu for Nevada that dated back to 1948. Williams chipped in with five tackles (4 solos), a quiet day, compared to his double-digit tackle performances in Nevada’s previous two games, but three of his stops prevented possible touchdowns and three times he rerouted receivers away from what appeared to be easy catches…Recorded seven tackles (5 solos) with a pair of pass break-ups vs. Texas State…The strong safety had nine tackles, two coming on third-down snaps vs. San Diego State…In the Fresno State clash, the senior made seven tackles (6 solos) while also causing a fumble, as he delivered a pair of touchdown-saving hits and rerouted receivers away from five passes targeted into his area…Registered eight tackles (5 solos), yet again knocking an opponent out of the game with a sensational tackle that caused a fumble, coming up with three of his stops in the backfield, as the Wolf Pack snapped a three-game losing streak for a 31-24 decision over New Mexico.
Williams started all thirteen games at strong safety, receiving All-American honorable mention from The NFL Draft Report, as the consensus All-Western Athletic Conference first-team choice ranked third on the team with a career-high 83 tackles (58 solos) that included 4.5 stops for losses of 9 yards…Advanced a fumble recovery seven yards and had one interception while deflecting six passes…Added 186 yards on nine kickoff returns (20.67 avg) and registered nine tackles (8 solos) as a member of the kickoff coverage squad…While the Wolf Pack finished 57th in the nation in pass defense, allowing an average of 221.85 yards per game, those figures would have been much worse, if not for the stellar coverage skills displayed by Williams…Poor tackling up front forced the safety to often come out of his area to prevent the opponent from reaching the end zone, as he made ten touchdown-saving tackles vs. the ground game (most by a defensive back in a season since Steve Atwater of Arkansas had eleven in 1988) and five more TD-saving stops vs. the aerial attack…Held opponents to 151 yards on 53 running plays (2.85 ypc) he was involved in, holding those runners to just two first downs and no touchdowns, as he made six third-down stops with five total tackles-for-loss (solos and assists), in addition to taking down runners at the line of scrimmage for no gain four times…Opponents targeted 68 passes into his territory, as Williams jammed/rerouted his coverage assignment away from 37 of those tosses (54.41%), allowing just sixteen completions (23.53%) for 164 yards (10.25 yards per completion/major college-low 2.41 yards per attempt), ten first downs and no touchdowns, as he was in on 23 third-down stops and one more on a fourth-down snap vs. the aerial game…Produced fourteen stops inside the red zone, including a team-high ten on goal-line plays.
Williams appeared in each of the team’s final thirteen games, starting eleven contests at strong safety (came off the bench vs. Utah State and Idaho)…Despite missing the season opener vs. Eastern Washington (suspended for team rules violation), the sophomore finished third on the team with 74 tackles (51 solos) that included 4.5 stops for minus 11 yards and a pair of forced fumbles…Deflected four passes and intercepted two others for 42 yards in returns…Williams was supposed to be paired up with strong safety Corbin Louks, but when Louks went down with an injury in the season opener, the coaching staff inserted Williams at strong safety, with Marlon Johnson manning the free safety position in an inexperienced secondary…That unit improved slightly from the 2009 campaign, but still finished 98th in the nation, allowing an average of 243.29 yards passing per game…
Williams was the unit’s bright spot, though, as he produced 41 stops vs. the running game, limiting those ball carriers to 109 yards (2.66 ypc) while making eight touchdown-saving tackles, along with two third-down hits, one more on fourth-down and sixteen tackles inside the red zone, including four on goal-line plays for a team that placed 18th in the nation, allowing just 120.29 yards per game rushing…Opponents targeted 68 passes into Williams’ territory and he rerouted/jammed receivers on 29 of those throws (42.65%), as he delivered four more touchdown-saving tackles while yielding 23 completions (33.82%) for 254 yards, thirteen first downs and one touchdown, holding his opponents to an average of 11.04 yards per completion and 3.74 yards per pass attempt while coming up with 23 third-down stops and another on a fourth-down play…Recorded five tackles (4 solos) for the kickoff coverage squad, making three of those stops inside the 20-yard line, in addition to causing a fumble and coming up with a touchdown-saving tackle after stopping a returner on an 86-yard runback vs. Idaho.
Williams was a standout on the kickoff coverage unit, as he saw eleven games of action behind Mo Harvey at the strong safety position, earning his first career start vs. San Jose State…Finished with 29 tackles (21 solos) for a struggling secondary that placed 119th in the nation, giving up an average of 297.77 yards per game…Led the team with twelve tackles (8 solos) on the coverage team, making eight of those stops inside the 20-yard line…With the defensive unit, he had three touchdown-saving tackles vs. the ground game, holding ball carriers to 28 yards on seven rushing attempts into his area…In pass coverage, opponents targeted 20 throws into his territory, as the true freshman rerouted opponents away from eight of those throws, allowing just seven to be completed (35.0%) for 64 yards, an average of 9.14 yards per completion and 3.2 yards per attempt, as he came up with five third-down stops and one more on a fourth-down pass play.
2009 Season…Williams was suspended for the New Mexico State game (11/21) after he was arrested for being a minor in possession of alcohol, according to the Washoe County Sheriff Detention Facility police report. The 19-year-old Williams was arrested along with his cousin Courtney Gardner. Wolf Pack football head coach Chris Ault said Williams would be suspended for the team’s game at New Mexico State. He said there was a procedure that is followed in circumstances like these. “Usually, we take part of their scholarship away,” Ault said. “But his financial circumstances won’t allow that so he will be suspended for this game this week.” Ault said he would rather take a portion of the player’s scholarship in a situation like this.
“The bottom line is, suspension for a game is one thing, but I’d rather deduct from their scholarship as we’ve done in the past,” he said. “It’s been a good policy. I think it sends a better message. But his financial circumstances just won’t allow it at this time so he’ll be suspended for this game.”
Williams was later sent home from Hawaii, where the Wolf Pack were preparing to take on Southern Methodist in the Hawaii Bowl (12/24) after head coach Chris Ault disciplined the Nevada safety and linebacker Andre Davis. Davis was kicked off of the team and Williams was suspended after Davis was charged for second degree theft on December 22nd and had an arraignment at O’ahu First Circuit Court, where bail was set at $11,000.
“I have dismissed Andre Davis from the program immediately and I have suspended Duke Williams for the bowl game,” Ault said. “I want to apologize to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, the people of Hawaii, and our fans for their conduct.”
Davis allegedly stealing more than $1,100 worth of merchandise from a Waikiki Duty Free Store, according to a Honolulu television station, taking a designer watch; sunglasses; and at least two wallets, according to KITV in Honolulu. Williams was sent home and faced further discipline (was suspended for the 2010 season opener vs. Eastern Washington) after he met with the athletic staff. Designer sunglasses were reportedly recovered from Williams\’ hotel room.
“This swift action taken by Coach Ault is indicative of his commitment to doing things the right way,” athletics director Cary Groth said. “This behavior is not representative of the beliefs and ideals of the Nevada football program, the Wolf Pack athletics department or the University of Nevada.”
2010 Season…In April, Nevada officials investigated a fight between two Wolf Pack football players that landed one of them in the hospital with a knocked-out tooth, a chipped tooth and a cut inside his mouth that required six stitches. Nevada athletics director Cary Groth said no one pressed charges and the issue was handled internally.
The fight, which involved Nevada safeties Duke Williams and Marlon Johnson, as well as an alleged third party, occurred on the morning of April 18th, Nevada associate athletics director Keith Hackett said.
According to Hackett, the two got into an argument after a party when Johnson was getting ready to drive himself, Williams and a group of other friends home. Hackett said the 19-year-old Williams had been drinking, while Johnson was sober. Hackett said Johnson and Williams fought, with Johnson knocking Williams to the ground twice. After Johnson drove to his home, Williams got into another car with a different group of people and followed Johnson.
“Duke approached Marlon like he wanted to continue the fight,” Hackett said. “In that time frame was when one of the individuals from the other car, which Duke was riding in, threw a rock at Marlon and hit him in the cheek.” Hackett said Johnson immediately fell to the ground after being hit. The group of people Williams rode with drove away, but Williams stayed with Johnson, Hackett said. Another teammate showed up and drove Johnson to a hospital.
“From a behavioral standpoint, you can’t do things that continue to embarrass your family’s name, your program and your athletics department, and your university,” Hackett said. Hackett said Williams was “on thin ice” and in Nevada football head coach Chris Ault’s “dog house.”
“The one thing coach Ault’s explained with his feelings is that it’s now or never,” Hackett said. “If a single incident occurs again, he will be done with the Nevada football program. He must grow up and make better choices.” Hackett said after the two fought, they both spoke with Ault and told him their respective sides of the story. But Hackett said more investigation was needed after they learned a third party was involved and caused the majority of the damage.
“This third party is what the catalyst was,” Hackett said. “It was bad for them to fight. Bad for them to be drinking to the point where they don’t have control of their senses, but if this individual from outside had not thrown that rock, I might not have ever known about it because it would just be a fight between two guys.” Hackett said the individual was not a University of Nevada, Reno student, and since no charges wee being pressed, further investigation had been halted.
Despite the fight between Williams and Johnson, Hackett said the two were good friends prior to the incident. Hackett said that when Williams came to UNR for summer school, he stayed with Johnson over the summer prior to his freshman year.
2011 Season…On December 6th, Williams was arrested that night after being involved in a car accident. Williams hit another vehicle on the northbound transition to westbound I-80. He was cited for driving with an expired license, an expired registration and driving without insurance. He was then arrested on an outstanding warrant for failure to appear. That stemmed from an unpaid traffic ticket. He did not face a suspension and will allowed play in the upcoming Hawaii Bowl on December 24th. The Nevada Highway Patrol says it wasn\’t Duke\’s fault but did arrest him on a warrant for a previous traffic violation and proof of insurance.
No major injuries reported.
4.48 in the 40-yard dash…1.58 10-yard dash…2.55 20-yard dash…4.00 20-yard shuttle…
11.66 60-yard shuttle…7.17 three-cone drill…37 ½-inch vertical jump…10’6” broad jump… Bench pressed 225 pounds 13 times…31 ¾-inch arm length…9 5/8-inch hands…75 ½-inch wingspan.
Williams attended Procter R. Hug (Reno, Nev.) High School, earning a total of twelve varsity letters in football, basketball and track…Competed as a quarterback and safety for Hawks football head coach Rollins Stallworth…Williams’ began his prep career as a member of a Hawks’ squad that finished second in the state of Nevada with a 12-2 mark… During his sophomore season, he recorded 56 tackles with a pair of interceptions as a safety, in addition to averaging 4.24 yards per rushing attempt and completing 30-of-77 passes for 430 yards and five touchdowns…The team struggled to a 5-6 mark during Williams’ junior season, despite seeing their multi-talented player gain 427 yards with five touchdowns on 71 carries (6.01 ypc), throw for 458 yards with three scores and catch four passes for 31 yards and another touchdown…Guided the Hawks to a sixth-place ranking in the state during his senior season, as he garnered All-Division 4A, All-Northern/High Desert and Northern Nevada Player of the Year honors, en route to averaging 7.7 points per game, throwing for eleven touchdowns on just 41-of-89 pass attempts. He also had three interceptions for the defensive unit in 2008, earning All-State defensive honors in each of his three final seasons…Was part of a 4×100 track relay team that broke the state record at 41.34 seconds and was ranked in the top ten in the nation in triple jump…Also earned All-North Sierra League, All-Division 4A and All-North High Desert honors during his basketball career. The team finished 17th in the state during his sophomore season, followed by a junior campaign that saw him average 15.6 points, 2.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game in 2007/08…As a senior, he finished with averages of 17.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He scored in double figures in 25-of-27 games during the 2008/09 campaign, including tallying at least 20 points eight times, reaching that total in each of the Enterprise (21 points, 8 rebounds, three steals), Christian Brothers (28), Del Oro (24 points, six boards, five steals), Desert Oasis (24), Damonte Beach (20 points, six steals), Reno (25 on 10-of-15 field goals in their first meeting and 29 behind 12-of-21 shooting in the second contest) and Galena (23 points, six rebounds, three blocked shots), in addition to producing a season-high ten rebounds in each of the Reed and McQueen clashes.
Williams is majoring in Criminal Justice, with a minor in Education…Hopes to enter law enforcement once his playing days are over…Son of Bertha Henderson…Nicknamed “Duke”…Born Michael Williams on 10/15/90 in Monroe, Louisiana…Resides in Reno, Nevada.