Florida International U

FIU Panthers’ Treyvon Williams showing veteran savvy

You don’t often hear “mature” used to describe someone who proudly carries the nickname “Rookie.” Yet both fit FIU freshman linebacker Treyvon Williams.

As a college freshman, Williams can keep the nickname first given to him by a Miami Norland High coach when he was a sophomore in his first year on the varsity team. But because he’s mature, Williams already works at running the second-team defense at middle linebacker.

“A lot more play calls, a lot more signals, a lot more going on with communication,” Williams said. “As a freshman, it’s always going to be hard, but they trusted me so I’ve got to pick it up and learn it. They respect me enough for me to be on the second team. The second team respects me enough to listen to me when I make calls.”

Ahead of Williams on the depth chart is fifth-year senior Markeith Russell. Behind him is rangy sophomore Patrick Jean, who held the first-team spot in the spring.

“[Williams] is a low-heartbeat guy, No. 1,” FIU defensive coordinator Josh Conklin said. “He’s a guy who’s very humble and very mature. Any time you throw a lot of defensive packages at the guy, he’s locked into it. He makes few mental mistakes. Then, when you combine that with his instincts. That’s the thing we’ve seen. You start seeing it with inside runs and you start seeing it in team sessions. He’s gained a lot of confidence. Offensive guys start [saying], ‘Who’s 52? Who’s this little guy, 52’ You can tell they’ve got a lot of respect for him.

“We’ve got to keep developing him. Obviously, he’s not game ready yet. But I think we can get there.”

Elaborating on “low heartbeat,” Conklin said, “Very calm. Doesn’t rattle. Plays within himself. When you get new guys in, especially freshmen, they’re thinking a lot, they’re trying hard to prove themselves. They get frantic a little bit.”

The reference to “little guy” points to Williams’ small stature for the position. Some scouting services listed Williams at 6-0, 220. His official FIU listing is 5-11, 230.

That didn’t keep him from being a third-team Class 5A All-State selection and first-team Herald All-Dade linebacker. Nor did it stop several schools, including Hawaii, Akron and FAU, from talking to Williams.

“When it got closer to my time to sign, FIU was the team that talked to me the most,” Williams said. “No other schools were calling me, even though they offered me, they weren’t calling me to see like they wanted me. FIU came to my house, came to my school. It really seemed like they wanted me.”

Conklin said, “When we watched his tape, you saw he was a good instinctive linebacker. He may not have the size that’s been here typically, but he has instincts in the box. And he moves well side to side. So he had the linebacker skill set, he had the size. He just maybe lacked the height.”

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