Like a lot of college football recruits, Popeye Williams has taken matters into his own hands during the NCAA’s yearlong dead period by visiting some campuses on his own.
The coveted class of 2022 pass-rusher is starting with a couple of nearby schools — he saw Cincinnati last weekend and is making the trek to Louisville this weekend. Those are easy enough, as both are within about a two-hour drive of his home in Westfield, Indiana.
On March 26, though, Williams and his parents plan to stretch their legs a little bit and make a much longer trip to Lincoln.
“I just want to look at the campus and just try to see if that’s the perfect fit for me,” Williams told the Journal Star this week. “I think I can just learn more about Nebraska football in general and the education and the campus.”
That’s the surest sign the Huskers are squarely in the mix for Williams, who said he’s planning on releasing a top five in early April and hopes to make his college decision by the beginning of his senior football season at the end of the summer.
“That’s the latest I’m going to commit,” he said. “It’s either the first game of the season or before.”
That will leave the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Williams time to take official visits if the NCAA does indeed put an end to the dead period on June 1. However, he wants to get a jump on that process by seeing some top contenders with his own eyes this spring.
Williams is a popular guy on the recruiting front. He picked up offers from Penn State, Kentucky and Wisconsin in a week’s span last summer and has added offers from around the country since then.
Nebraska jumped into the mix in October and is joined in the race for Williams’ services by several other schools in the Big Ten. Minnesota and Illinois have offered just in the past few weeks, along with multiple SEC schools, the Cardinals, Bearcats and more.
The Husker staff, Williams said, is in contact on a daily basis.
“They offered me in the middle of my process and we started building a relationship with each other, doing Zoom calls, (virtual) visits of the campus and going over the defense, what my role would be in the defense," Williams said. "They also just tell me about the education at Nebraska and about campus in general.
“They text me every single day. My position coach, coach (Scott) Frost, my recruiter. They just stay in touch with my family and me every day, and my relationship with everyone there is really good right now.”
Williams is a three-star prospect according to both 247Sports and Rivals. He finished his junior season with 44 tackles (10 for loss) and five sacks.
“I think I had a pretty good season,” he said. “A lot of coaches have hit me up and said they love my film. I know that I’ve improved a lot since the year before.”
Nebraska coaches have told him that he could end up being either an outside linebacker or a defensive end depending on the formation, but that they covet what many other schools do.
“I’m a pass-rusher,” Williams said. “Quick off the edge, have a lot of moves in my inventory and I’m powerful as well. … A guy that can do a little bit of everything, but mainly a pass-rusher.”
Nebraska at this point has one linebacker in the boat for 2022 in Columbus High standout Ernest Hausmann and is involved with several others. Hausmann has been recruited so far as an inside linebacker but has the size and length where he could end up on the edge eventually, too. Williams is one of a couple Midwest prospects on Nebraska’s radar who are edge players all the way, along with Jared Badie (Oswego, Illinois) and Chase Carter (Minneapolis).
Meet Nebraska football's 2021 recruiting class
DB | MARQUES BUFORD
DB | KOBY BRETZ
TE | JAMES CARNIE
RB | GABE ERVIN
TE | THOMAS FIDONE
LB | MIKAI GBAYOR
WR | KAMONTE GRIMES
QB | HEINRICH HAARBERG
WR | SHAWN HARDY II
OLB | WYNDEN HO'OHULI
LB | RANDOLPH KPAI
LB | CHRIS KOLAREVIC
OL | HENRY LUTOVSKY
LB | SETH MALCOM
WR | LATRELL NEVILLE
OL | TEDDY PROCHAZKA
TE | AJ ROLLINS
DE | JAILEN WEAVER
DB | MALIK WILLIAMS
OL | BRANSON YAGER
DL | RU'QUAN BUCKLEY
DB | TYREKE JOHNSON
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