High School

Gonzaga's Caleb Williams has all the talent, but it's his poise that sets him apart

Gonzaga's Caleb Williams has all the talent, but it's his poise that sets him apart

Caleb Williams is a consensus 5-star student athlete and according to multiple sources, the top ranked quarterback in the class of 2021. As such, coaches of blue blood programs bide for his attention, collegiate fan bases stalk his social media, and recruiting services follow his every move in hopes of being the first to accurately update his 'crystal ball.'

Physically, Williams checks all the boxes sought after in a top-tier QB: arm strength, velocity, accuracy, mobility, and he can make every throw in the route tree. On the field, Williams embodies everything coaches look for in a football player -- but it’s who he is off the field that makes him a generational student athlete.

“Mentally, he sees it; he sees the game,” said Williams’ offensive coordinator, Danny Schaechter. “Kind of like Mozart could look at a piano and he could see music. Einstein looked at a blackboard with numbers and he could see the universe. Caleb can look at a defense and he can see patterns in the open grass.

“He can see what another person is doing and anticipate what’s going to happen. You’ve got guys who are great athletes but not great football players because they can’t see it the way someone like Caleb can.”

Williams was highly-touted before he ever stepped foot on a high school field. His accomplishments in youth football led to him being recruited by the top programs in the region. Once he chose Gonzaga, Schaechter said it didn’t take long for Williams' way of being to outshine his arm-talent.

“This is how Caleb really took over as our starting quarterback going into his freshmen year,” Schaecter remembered. “We were at Penn State for a 7-on-7 tournament and he was in a high-pressure situation, but when you looked at him, it was as if he was somewhere on the beach.

“Everyone else was frantic, but he was poised, calm and relaxed. Making big plays against teams filled with great players, and he’s out there leading us to wins.”

Schaechter says Williams led by example in those early days, but by way of personal growth and work ethic, he has become one of Gonzaga’s vocal leaders in present day. His knowledge of the playbook and ability to communicate with his peers allows him to serve as an on-field extension of his coaching staff.

“Every single year he gets better and better about understanding offenses and defenses and how to properly prepare on the practice field. He’ll coach the receivers and tell them, ‘this is what I need you to do when the defender is doing this,'” Schaechter said. “He’s taking exactly what we’re coaching and giving it to his teammates, just in his own way. That’s a testament to the time he puts in and his commitment to this program.”

Last season, Williams accounted for 40 touchdowns and amassed nearly 3,000 yards from scrimmage en route to being named the NBC Sports Washington Offensive Player of the Year. In his three seasons as Gonzaga’s starting quarterback, he has led the Eagles to two WCAC championship games, winning it all as a sophomore. According to his OC, it’s Williams’ intrinsic drive that fuels his desire to succeed at the highest level.

“The guy is ultra competitive. He loves to be the best," Schaechter said. "He has a chip on his shoulder at all times. He’s always trying to show how great he can be, and that stems from his belief in himself, his confidence in his ability and the work he puts into it all.”

With all the accolades and accomplishments, it would be understandable for a student athlete in Williams’ position to adopt a “me-first” attitude. The feeling at Gonzaga, though, is Williams values being a great teammate above all else.

“The whole recruiting game has never gotten to his head to the point that he’s arrogant or that he thinks he’s better than other people,” Schaechter said. “He’s a great teammate and a great guy. He knows he’s lucky to have the talent that he has and he just wants to use his platform to help others.”

A high school senior reflects on having his final high school baseball season canceled

A high school senior reflects on having his final high school baseball season canceled

Due to the outbreak of coronavirus, a number of high school seniors saw their final sports seasons cut short. At NBC Sports Washington, we invited them to share their stories. This one comes to us from Riverside Rams senior baseball player Philip Barbe.

I woke up ready to go play a scrimmage and found out school was canceled. Before I knew it, school was canceled for the rest of the year leaving my teammates and me without a season. 

As a senior, it has affected me heavily. I have always looked forward to my senior night and being able to show all the hard work I’ve put in the past four years. It’s been a challenge waking up every day not being able to do the thing that I love. 

The cancelation doesn’t just affect me because of my baseball season being lost—It’s also because I’m missing out on some important high school memories: senior prom, graduation, and all the other great things that come with being in high school. It’s not even just about me - my parents and family have been waiting for these moments as well. 

The effect this has had goes beyond the players and affects everyone involved.

It’s been completely heartbreaking but I hope that they find a way to give us some sort of season again. Even if we play games like a travel tournament I’d be okay with that.

Just one more opportunity to go on the field is all I want right now.

READ MORE FROM HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS HERE AND HERE.

Top 10 defensive linemen in the DMV for the class of 2021

Top 10 defensive linemen in the DMV for the class of 2021

The game of football has evolved. As offenses shift to spread formations and focus on pace, it has become imperative for defensive student athletes to become faster, more agile and capable of playing in space.

The most proficient way to slow down a high-octane offense is to beat them with a dominant front-four. Here’s a look at the DMV’s top defensive linemen in the class of 2021.

1. Demeioun Robinson | Quince Orchard (MD)

WDE: 6’4", 225

Offers: 24, including Maryland, Georgia, Ohio State

Demeioun Robinson has amazing get-off. His first step is electric, his movement is smooth with no false steps and little wasted motion. He routinely beats his blocker before the quarterback has a chance to get from under center and once he’s in the backfield, he closes like a heat-seeking missile.

Robinson has excellent length, but he plays with a low center of gravity. He’s a natural pass rusher -- his quickness off the edge is unparalleled in his class. The only hope of getting him blocked is with a strong double-team at the point of attack. He’s too fast, too active and too athletic to be run away from.

Robinson possesses the playmaking ability of an offensive star -- he just so happens to line up at defensive end.

2. Marcus Bradley | Quince Orchard (MD)

DT: 6’4", 275

Offers: 34, including Maryland, Oregon, Ohio State

Marcus Bradley is one of the hottest recruits in the country and it’s for good reason.  He plays big and with bad intentions.

Bradley is a physical specimen and unlike many young men his size, he’s not afraid to use his girth to punish the opposition. Bradley tosses around would be blockers en route to the ball carrier. He has a quick first step and moves well in space which allows him to line up at defensive end when needed.

Bradley is a smart pass rusher -- he often angles his pursuit to create direct pathways to the QB, and when he cannot get home, he does a great job getting his hands up to deflect passes.

3. Taizse Johnson | St. John’s (DC)

DT: 6’1", 290

Offers: 13, including Georgia, LSU, Alabama, Florida

Committed: University of Maryland

Taizse Johnson is an offensive lineman’s worst nightmare; he has the strength of a bear and the feet of a ballerina.

Johnson is stout at the point of attack. When lining up as a 1-technique, he beats one-on-one blocking with ease. He has excellent hands and uses them to get off blocks, allowing him to get penetration and make tackles in the backfield. Johnson plays with a high-motor and routinely pursues runners down the line as well as downfield.

As a pass rusher, he gets excellent push up the middle and his quick feet allow him to be an effective stunt partner with outside defenders. Johnson is both supremely talented and technically sound, a combination not often seen at the high school level.

4. Monkell Goodwine | National Christian Academy (MD)

SDE: 6’4", 260

Offers: 23, including LSU, Oklahoma, Tennessee

Goodwine is a quick and powerful young man who has prototypical size and backs that up with a high motor.

Goodwine has a D-1 physique. He’s strong at the point of attack, making it difficult to run at him and he chases the ball aggressively when opponents attempt to run away from him. As a pass rusher he is relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback. His quick first step allows him to get upfield with ease and he is disciplined enough to double back and close on unsuspecting QBs who think they’ve gotten away.

5. Katron Evans | St. Frances (MD)

DT: 6’4", 320

Offers: 37, including Clemson, Alabama, Georgia

Katron Evans is a force of nature capable of dominating the interior from his 1-technique. Evans is a mountain of a young man who forces, and subsequently splits double teams. He eats up blockers thus allowing his linebackers to run to the ball unabated.

He is effective at clogging rushing lanes. He is strong at the point of attack and is proficient at sliding down the line to make stops.  He uses his violent hands to get push up the middle in passing situations.

6. Colin Mobley | DeMatha (MD)

SDE: 6’4", 250

Offers: 25, including Penn State, Florida State, Maryland

The first thing to notice about Mobley is his size; the young man looks the part. His long arms, strong foundation and tight core give him the necessary physical attributes to exceed all expectations -- and those expectations are high.

Mobley does a great job using hand fighting techniques to disengage from blockers. He is stout at the point of attack and is an efficient pass rusher. Mobley is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential.

7. James Gillespie | Woodbridge (VA)

DT: 6’2", 300

Offers: 10, including Michigan, Penn St., Maryland

James Gillespie has a quick first step and excellent burst for a young man his size. He routinely gets penetration and is a sure tackler once in the opponent’s backfield.

Gillespie’s athleticism is off the charts. His quick feet allow him to track runners down the line and his ability to maintain gap integrity make it challenging to run at him.

8. Terion Sugick | National Christian Academy (MD)

DT: 6’3", 287

Offers: 16, including UVA, Maryland, NC State

Terion Sugick plays the game with bad intentions. A physical young man, he believes in imposing his will on opponents until they give in. He’s a punishing hitter -- his style of play sets the tone for his team.

Sugick does a good job splitting double teams and getting penetration. He has quick and active feet which allow him to routinely disrupt plays in the backfield. He plays the game with an energy and zest that his teammates can easily feed off of.

9. Kenjuan Manuel | St. John’s (DC)

DT: 6’1", 296

Offers: 6, including East Carolina, UMass, Ohio

Manuel is an anchor in the interior of the Cadets’ defensive line. He displays the requisite power needed to beat one-on-one blocking and holds his ground when double-teamed.

Manuel shows short-range burst and stellar lateral movement. When motivated to do so, he lives in the opposition’s backfield. Manuel is a high character young man and will be an asset to any program. Look for him to take major strides this season and bring his potential to fruition.

10. Andre Porter | Ballou (DC)

SDE: 6’3", 260

Offers: 12, including Maryland, Boston College, Pitt

Andre Porter is equipped with size and freakish athletic ability. The strong-side defensive end stands 6-foot 3-inches, weighing 260 pounds, while maintaining the straight-line speed and quick twitch muscle reflexes of an offensive skilled player.

Porter has the potential to be truly special and undoubtedly will prove to be one of the top defensive linemen in the nation, once he is able to get back on the field.

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