While many of his freshmen peers in the class of 2017 were learning the ropes and catching up to the speed of college football, Bennett Williams showcased his athleticism and racked up major accolades. Most notably, he earned BTN.com All-Freshman Team honors and was the only Illini to make the ESPN.com Freshman All-American list.
Williams’ stats indicate that he has All-Big Ten potential as he matures since his 64 tackles were good for second-most among freshman in the Big Ten and fifth-most on the Illini defense. He also fits the Lovie Smith defensive philosophy, as he led the Illini with three interceptions and also forced a fumble at Minnesota:
#Illini continue to lead the nation in forced fumbles per game (1.83).@bennettw04 with the latest big hit. pic.twitter.com/KXMLNdfMzb— Illini Football (@IlliniFootball) October 23, 2017
As a recruit, Williams essentially flew under the radar since he had no other offers from Power Five conference schools when he committed to the Illini. Williams’ emergence as one of the best freshmen in the Big Ten last season was a testament to the evaluation abilities of the Illini coaching staff, which should reassure fans that other talented players are on the way.
Bennett Williams’ career should be enjoyable to watch over the next few years. As long as he stays healthy, he could turn into one of the best defenders in the Big Ten toward the end of his collegiate career. With luck, he’ll have a great chance to follow in former Illini safety Clayton Fejedelem’s footsteps and play on Sundays as well.