Owen Marecic left quite a legacy in Palo Alto. The 2010 Paul Hornung Award winner started at both middle linebacker and fullback. Not only is it impressive that he didn't pass out on the sidelines at half time, but also that he excelled in being the only Division One player to start both ways. He scored both an offensive and defensive touchdown against Notre Dame in South Bend within 13 seconds of each other.
Like Marecic did at Stanford, three-star commit Reagan Williams also played both linebacker and fullback at Jackson High School in Ohio. It may not be fair to compare a current high school senior to such an esteemed player, but certainly it is a logical collation. Williams called Marecic a "tremendous player" who he got more "familiar with," playing for his hometown Browns.
I had the opportunity to interview Williams, who came off as a very humble, respectful person. He officially visited Michigan after Jim Harbaugh was hired, but decided to solidify his verbal commitment to The Farm. He will officially sign with the Cardinal on February 4th. He explained the decision over text to me on Tuesday:
"It's an excellent feeling to know that I have the privilege to go to a school that has so many people that I find similar to myself. From Coach Shaw and the current players, to all of the guys I've already made friends with in my 2015 class. Stanford just felt like a home away from home to me...Distance didn't [weigh] very heavily in my selection either way. I did seriously consider Michigan and gave them a very fair shot at landing me. I loved everything Michigan had to offer especially the chance to be coached by one of the best coaches in college football in Jim Harbaugh. I really liked both schools and it came down to which school I wanted more, and not if I disliked either school. In the end, everything that Stanford has to offer was too much to pass up. And while coach Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in college football, in my opinion, Coach Shaw is the best coach in college football. Playing for him wasn't an opportunity I could let go."
Williams has played significant time at linebacker, tight end and fittingly, fullback in his high school career. He could play any three of the positions at Stanford, but will likely settle in at fullback. Playing both ways like Marecic comes easily for Williams, who started on both sides of the ball, earning first team all-state honors at linebacker in his senior season. Williams explained that "the staff at Stanford...appreciate[s] [his] versatility."
Williams is clearly a team-oriented player, a characteristic that coach David Shaw and his staff valued. As Williams conveyed, "Versatility is a virtue in everything in life. Whatever gets us closer to a national championship I will do." When asked about his best position, Williams deferred that question "for the coaches to answer" and will play in any position the staff feels "puts us (Stanford) in a better position to win. Marecic was willing to sacrifice for the team, and Williams appears poised to do the same.
Williams is listed a 6-foot-3, 232 pounds - massive for a running back. Marecic is shorter, sitting at six feet even, but is listed at 248 pounds. Williams could fit into the mold of a slightly bigger Tyler Gaffney, a bruising, physical back. For some perspective, Brandon Jacobs is one of the tallest running backs in NFL history, but is only 6'4" tall. Height is usually only perceived as an issue when it inhibits the back's open field speed and burst, which should not be an issue for Williams.
Despite his ability to run the football, Williams' size is more prototypical of a linebacker or a fullback than a running back. David Shaw's pitch to Williams involved mold him into "a Ryan Hewitt-type of player that can both block and catch out of the backfield." He certainly excelled as a blocker, recording a 53 pancakes in just twelve games. He also demonstrated an ability to haul in passes, catching 8 for 152 yards and a touchdown last season.
Williams clearly has the ability to be an explosive receiver out of the backfield, but he likely is best suited at fullback. The Cardinal have been lacking depth at fullback, with Patrick Skov only having one year of eligibility left, and Lee Ward graduating. Although there's a chance Stanford may be spreading out its offense, they still need a fullback. Williams would have a relatively clear path to starting in his academic sophomore season, and could even be used in tandem with Skov next season if Shaw feels burning his redshirt is necessary. Shaw has been reluctant to burn redshirts in recent years, but maybe Christian McCaffrey's play has changed that philosophy.
Fits the System
If fullback doesn't pan out for the talented Williams, there will always be room for him in the linebacking corps. He racked up 102 tackles, 19 of them for loss, and twelve sacks in his senior season. From his tape, it is clear that Williams is a tenacious player that leaves it all on the field. He is a hard-nosed, smash-mouth player, just like Marecic, and reminds me of Chase Thomas in his style as a linebacker. He is an outstanding run-through tackler and times blitzes very well.
David Shaw loves physical players, and he got one in Williams. He fits Shaw's scheme perfectly, and could be the next great two-way player at Stanford. He even has the blonde locks to emulate Marecic, which is buzzed normally, but he is "in the process of growing...out." If Williams really is the second-coming of Marecic, Stanford fans will be in for a treat.