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A former standout prep at running back, Willis made a quick transition to defense at Michigan State, playing in nine games (and starting three) as a true freshman before suffering a broken foot in the Big Ten Championship game. He only started one game a year later but was more involved in the action, watching his tackle numbers jump from 11 to 30 before emerging as a fulltime starter as a junior.
Willis earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in 2017, recording a career-high 71 tackles, including 5.5 for loss, 3.0 sacks, three pass breakups and two interceptions. He collected another two interceptions as a senior and built upon his tackle (77) and pass breakup (7) statistics, again, generating honorable mention recognition.
He is a player worth rooting for; getting voted team captain and being nominated for the Senior CLASS award due to academic and charitable work at MSU. He earned a standing ovation as the keynote speaker at the Big Ten Media Day, calling upon his fellow athletes to help their communities.
Boasts an ideal frame for the position with plenty of natural body armor due to his broad shoulders and well-distributed musculature. Displays good initial quickness and balance when changing directions and is a smooth accelerator.
Willis looks like an undersized linebacker and, unfortunately, runs like one at times in coverage, despite how well he performed in the timed drills at the Combine (4.52 40-yard dash, led DBs with 22 bench reps at 225 pounds). He is reliant upon diagnosing the action correctly as he simply does not possess the catch-up speed to recover when he guesses wrong.
Fortunately, he is savvy, rarely getting caught out of position. He anticipates routes well, effectively maintaining his position between the receiver and quarterback and does not panic when the ball is in the air, showing enough poise and body control to contort in space and compete.
Willis' best attribute on the field might be his reliability as a tackler. He breaks down well in space to make controlled, physical stops with knockdown power.
Projection: Fifth Round
--Field Level Media