East Lansing – Michigan State announced on Monday that former Nebraska defensive tackle Kevin Williams will join the Spartans as a graduate transfer for the 2016 season.

Williams, who spent five years at Nebraska, received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA last November due to knee injuries, which prevented him from playing in 2011 and 2013.

“We’re excited about the addition of Kevin to our football team,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement. “We had a chance to get to know him during the recruiting process. He has the talent and experience to immediately contribute to our defense this season.”

Williams (6-foot-2, 275 pounds) graduated from Nebraska with a bachelor’s degree in management in August 2014 and earned his master’s degree in construction engineering and management in May 2016. Williams, who was named to the Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll five times at Nebraska, plans on pursuing a second master’s degree in sports administration from Michigan State.

“It was a little bit of everything on why I wanted to come to Michigan State,” Williams said. “I had a previous relationship with the coaching staff during the recruiting process in high school. I also got a good idea of how the program was run by being in the same conference. I knew that even after coming to Nebraska, Michigan State would have been a good route to go as well out of high school. I’m excited to be a part of a championship level program.”

Williams will provide immediate help at a position that has suffered its share of losses since the end of last season. Lawrence Thomas and Joel Heath are off to the NFL while Craig Evans left the team for personal reasons after spring practice ended. And Damon Knox, who originally planned to seek a sixth year of eligibility, decided otherwise following the spring and is pursuing a career in law enforcement.

That left junior Malik McDowell as the only returning player on the interior of the defensive line with significant experience.

Williams was a top-20 defensive tackle in the nation coming out of Springfield High in Holland, Ohio, and was Division II Co-Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.

At Nebraska, Williams played in 23 games, including four starts. He recorded 27 tackles, including 10 for loss and three sacks. In 2014, Williams had a career-high 19 tackles, including eight tackles for loss and three sacks.

Twitter: @mattcharboneau