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Texas frosh Connor Williams emerging as franchise LT

A rare combination of intelligence, competitiveness, and physical talent has already made the Coppell product one of the best in the country at his position.

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

If it doesn't happen before then, the Texas Longhorns will finally break the school's ignominious streak of failing to have an offensive lineman taken in the NFL Draft since 2008 in either 2017 or 2018 when freshman left tackle Connor Williams could conceivably go as high as the first round.

Is it hyperbole to talk about a true freshman that way roughly two and half years from the time that he'll even become draft eligible?

Not exactly.

In fact, it's hardly an outrageous statement given that Williams is already a top-10 pass blocker among all offensive tackles in college football with a +6.0 grade and only seven pressures allowed through the first six games. The 6'5, 283-pounder hasn't graded out negatively yet this season, according to Pro Football Focus, and had an overall mark of +9.1 going into the Kansas State game a year after former starting left tackle Marcus Hutchins graded out at -13.9 in 2014.

Against the Wildcats, Williams did get called for a holding penalty, but otherwise didn't allow any disruption.

"He's a very unique talent -- super, super intelligent," Texas play caller Jay Norvell said Tuesday. "He's got two rare qualities for a young kid. He's extremely intelligent and he's extremely competitive. And he's physically talented, which for a freshman is highly unusual. For him to be able to play left tackle and for us to not even really worry about him is really rare."

Actually, that's three rare traits and the combination has allowed him to learn quickly and adjust to the college game despite a lack of ideal mass and upper body strength that seemingly limited his ability to punch and get displacement in the running game while in high school.

In looking back on Williams' recruitment, his incredible level of production initially seems all the more remarkable based on some of his rankings. Dave Campbell's Texas Football ranked him as the No. 7 offensive lineman in the state. 247Sports had him as the No. 75 offensive tackle nationally. His consensus three-star rating by the industry was hardly impressive.

But his offer list told another tale. Recruiting rankings matter to a great degree -- there is simply too much evidence to suggest otherwise, but if an offer list suggests a player is held in much higher esteem by college coaches than recruiting analysts, it's probably a sign that the recruiting analysts are the ones missing something.

Arizona State, Arkansas, Baylor, Kansas State, Michigan, Mississippi State, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, TCU, Texas Tech, and UCLA were all among nearly 30 offers for Williams.

His high school production suggested a talent level at odds with his rankings, too -- as a senior, Williams recorded 63 pancakes and graded out at 94 percent, according to his Coppell coaches, allowing only one sack and committing only one holding penalty all season.

After waiting to offer until June of 2014, the Horns were lucky to pick up a pledge from Williams not long after, despite that lengthy and impressive offer list and his high interest in other major programs like Georgia and Oregon. The fact that his older sister went to Texas and graduate in 2013 likely played a positive role in that decision.

Once Williams arrived on campus in January as an early enrollee, he quickly grabbed the attention of his teammates for his workmanlike attitude.

"He's going to be a player," senior left guard Sedrick Flowers said during the spring. "He's going to be a really good player. He came in and right off the bat he came in with a competitive nature, and he is not giving up for anything. He came in playing hard."

At varoius points through the spring and into the fall, head coach Charlie Strong echoed those exact same sentiments -- Williams says little and merely goes about his business of working hard with the right attitude.

The result was a role as the starting right tackle in the spring game before transitioning to left tackle in beating out Hutchins. Since then, the only real low points were games against Oklahoma State and TCU where he was banged up and played at an average level. After getting healthy against Oklahoma and recovering further during the bye week, Williams returned to what is becoming his typical level of production.

Combine him with fellow freshman Patrick Vahe and Norvell said that the two are as unique as any freshmen that he's been around in 30 years of coaching. When scouts come in to watch film, the Texas play caller said that he likes to joke that they won't be able to spot the freshmen among the five offensive linemen based on a lack of talent, maturity, or physicality without knowing their age beforehand.

But the timeframe for scouts to come into the Texas football offices without knowing anything about Williams is diminishing quickly and that means that the Longhorns have a franchise left tackle in place for at least two more years.