Zion Williamson‘s future looks pretty clear in the aftermath of Duke’s 68-67 loss to Michigan State. He will almost certainly enter the NBA draft and become the overwhelming favorite to become the top pick.
But what if Williamson’s career had gone another way? College football coaches can only dream about what might have been if they could have lined up someone with Williamson’s combination of size and agility. Earlier this year, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney talked about lining him up all over the field.
Over the past week, we reached out to college football coaches across the country to ask where they would put Williamson if they had him on their roster:
Ohio State’s Ryan Day: “He’s got tremendous ball skills, ridiculous short-area quickness, he plays really, really hard, he’s tough. I just think he’d be a nightmare of a matchup for a DB, a safety or a linebacker because if you put a DB on him, he could just muscle him, outjump him. If you put a linebacker on him, they can’t cover him because he’s so quick. I think he’d be perfect at tight end.”
Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio: “We’ll take a hundred of him. Put him at defensive tackle, put him at left tackle, put him at tight end. He’s got a variety of positions he can play.”
Rutgers’ Chris Ash: “I would play him on both sides of the ball, probably have him as a tight end on offense and defensive end on defense, and he’d probably never come off the field. [Tight end] because of his ability to go get the ball and put points on the board, that’s where I’d put him.”
Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason: “Defensive end. Reminds me of Julius Peppers. I think those guys can make a ton of money. Well, you know what? Let’s be honest: I’d play him at tight end and defensive end.”
Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald: “Superback [their version of TE]. I’d move him around to get the best matchups. We’d give him the ball in certain situations.”
“There’s not a position he can’t play. … Not many people are going to want to tackle him. He’s different. I mean, he’s big and he runs like a running back.”
Florida State coach Willie Taggart
Florida State’s Willie Taggart: “Everywhere. There’s not a position he can’t play. Not one. I mean literally everywhere.” Even at QB? “Who’s going to tackle him? Not many people are going to want to tackle him. He’s different. I mean he’s big and he runs like a running back. That game the other day when he checks down that ball over that little guy, I was like, You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Miami’s Manny Diaz: “Selfishly, my instinct always says he’d go to defense, but I always feel like in this situation the guy would be a matchup nightmare at tight end. It’s hard to figure out who on the defense would cover that guy one-on-one in the red zone. You wouldn’t find too many linebackers who would think they would cover him. Assuming he’s got the toughness for contact — that’s the only thing, sometimes we all assume basketball players can be football players, [but] that’s a different level of contact — he’d be pretty elite coming around the edge, too.”
NC State’s Dave Doeren: “He can play wherever he wants. I don’t know — tight end, defensive end. He’d be a nightmare.”
Purdue’s Jeff Brohm: “It’s kind of like LeBron James. He’d be one of those flex-out tight ends that you’d get the ball to, and you could probably play him on defense as well. He’d be a good defensive end; he could rush the passer. He’d be a two-way guy for sure. He has the ability to do that with that size and that athleticism.
“You get fouls in basketball, but in football, I’m sure people would try to hit him low and get in his head and all that stuff, but physically, he’s a specimen. Definitely in the red zone, put him in the Wildcat package, snap him the ball a little bit, see what he could do.”