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Is Gerald Willis A Glass Half Full Or A Glass Half Empty? Can Coach Tomsula Get Him Up To Snuff?

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Hogs Haven takes a look at 2019 NFL Draft prospects that could contribute to the Redskins

NCAA Football: Florida State at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Gerald Willis, DL
School: Miami | Conference: ACC
College Experience: RS Senior | Age: 23
Height / Weight: 6-3 / 285 lbs
Projected Draft Status: 3rd or 4th Round
NFL Comparison: Jay Bromley

College Statistics

Player Overview

Gerald Willis III is the younger brother of New York Giant’s safety Landon Collins. Like his older brother Willis was in the company of his mother during the All-American Bowl where he was about to announce his choice regarding where he would play football. His choices came down to LSU and Florida. As you may recall, his brother Landon much to the ire of his mother chose Alabama over LSU. Gerald followed suit and chose Florida over LSU (sorry Mom, they must have wanted to get away from home). Willis played his freshman season at Florida and his promise was clear on the field in the limited time he played. Willis got into some trouble at Florida. He and Skylar Mornhinweg (One of Florida’s QBs at the time) came to blows over a dispute over cleats. Willis further strained his relationships at Florida when he pushed Jameis Winston when he was already out of bounds on the sideline which led to an ejection. Willis left Florida and enrolled in Miami where sat out the entire 2015 season because of FBS rules. Willis had a lot of time to be advised and work himself when it came to containing his passion and anger and started to show the flashes he showed at Florida on the field during his 2016 season before it was ended short by a MCL tear. Willis sat out the 2017 in part due to recovery from surgery and also in part because of personal and academic issues. Lots of people were questioning if the former 4-star recruit would ever live up to his potential. Finally, this past season Willis got his head on straight and had a breakout season and was considered one of the more disruptive players in the ACC. It’s always been clear that Willis has the tools. He’s held himself back in a lot of ways but has finally shown who and what he could be on the field. If all goes well the team that drafts him could be getting a 1st or 2nd round talent, if all doesn’t go well Willis will continue to find ways to sabotage his availability on the field. The team that drafts him will have to be comfortable taking that gamble.

Strengths

  • Traits player who flashes everything you want to see out of a DL. Power, strength, quickness, active hands, finishing ability all there if only for a fleeting moment.
  • Developed a nice swim or arm over move to help combat blockers. Quickness with it exposes offensive lineman’s inside shoulder and he can take advantage and get into the backfield.
  • Offers a little something in the way of pass rush. On his best reps he keeps his legs churning and pushes the lineman back to collapse the pocket and force the QB to move.
  • Pursuit from backside angles against the run can be great and were great this season which helped him with his impressive TFL totals.

Weaknesses

  • It may be because I’m personally invested in the team he plays for but Willis’ inconsistency is maddening. I don’t think I realized how off he could be until I revisited these cut ups. On some plays he looks amazing on others he looks like your uncle out there.
  • Plays with horrible leverage most of the time which neutralizes his power. He can get pushed around like a rag doll which is not good at 285. I’m tempted to say he’s weak but I’m not sure if thats actually the case since the technique is so bad.
  • At times forgets to play with any counters at all and basically just becomes a body. Effort seems to go in and out as well. Buries head down and loses sight of the ball forfeiting any read and react ability he may have had.
  • Some teams will have questions about his past experiences and interactions. He will have to perform well in interviews to convince front offices he has matured.
  • Has played in just 26 career games so is very much still inexperienced.

Let’s see his work:

More Gerald Willis III videos

How He Would Fit On The Redskins

That fell on the side of tougher reviews. Watching Miami this season it seemed like Willis was a blessing that had come to the defensive line after RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton left early last season. In many ways he was, he helped the team a lot, and he had a very good year, he was certainly Miami’s best interior defensive lineman. Willis runs very much hot and cold and like with Miami his disappearance in games may have be overlooked as other players like Joe Jackson, Jon Garvin, Michael Pinckney, and Shaq Quarterman stepped up. What’s concerning is that his worst games came against conference rivals with NFL or potential NFL talent on the interior offensive line (Boston College, Virginia, Virginia Tech).

You might watch him and feel like ripping him but then I remember his journey to finally playing this year has been anything but smooth. A lot of this is his own fault so the evaluation of Willis for NFL teams will largely fall into two major buckets. Do you think he has outgrown his maturity issues and can he avoid getting himself into silly trouble? With him only playing 26 career games, at 23, do you think you can teach him proper technique and refine his play so that his consistency improves? Those are big questions and I can definitely some teams falling in love with Willis’ flashes who would be willing to take those leaps.

Regarding his fit on the Redskins I am split down the middle. If he can at all play anywhere near consistent to the level he was in the LSU game I can see him being a fine 5-tech who can move inside on passing downs. His shortcoming technically can be improve greatly in a year or two under the tutelage of the best defensive line coach in the NFL. If anyone can teach technique, leverage, and counters it’s Jim Tomsula. On the other hand the Redskins have a couple young players on the roster who have already acted silly as hell and I STILL don’t see any overwhelming indication that the locker room has a set of leaders in it that will really help and guide players like that. It could, but have we seen it?

Willis will get a chance to show he’s improve athletically in some areas at the combine but I feel the biggest part of the process for him will be the interviews.