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Jace Williams, Nolan Ziegler back to power champion Grand Rapids CC

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Jace Williams plans to make Michigan State coach Mel Tucker take a look at him by putting on a show during his senior year at Grand Rapids Catholic Central, the same way he did in last year’s Division 4 state championship game.

Williams had three TD receptions in a one-sided 44-0 state title game win over Detroit Country Day, including scoring catches of 15 and 10 yards in the opening quarter to give Catholic Central a 12-0 lead.

Jace Williams

Williams was thrilled to learn on Thursday that the season was back on after a three-week stoppage. Back on Aug. 14, the MHSAA said the Michigan high school football season would take place in the spring.

Williams (6-5, 200), who has 4.6 speed, worked hard on weights and conditioning while organized football was put on hold.

Williams has offers from multiple Big Ten schools, including Michigan State, but the MSU offer came when Mark Dantonio was coach. He has yet to meet or talk with Tucker but would like to get the chance.

More: 'Mixed emotions': MHSAA OKs football while state warns against contact sports

“I’m extremely excited, couldn’t believe it when I first saw it, just excited about it,” said Williams of having the season back in play. “I’m glad we’re back at it.”

As for his recruitment, Williams said, “It’s been pretty tough, there’s been a lot of recruits who have already committed to schools, so it’s been tough. I had narrowed things down, but things didn’t turn out the way I thought they would, but that’s OK. God has a plan for me and things will be fine.”

Williams’ favorite schools right now are Michigan State, Nebraska and Iowa.

“They (Nebraska, Iowa) had their receiver commits already for the class, but I haven’t talked to Michigan State with their new coaching staff,” Williams said. “I’m kind of surprised I haven’t heard from him (Tucker) since they have no receiver commits right now (2021 class). I don’t know what I’m missing, but they’re going to see this season. If Michigan State shows interest in me then I’ll definitely listen.”

Williams also has multiple MAC offers and is talking with MAC champion Miami.

Williams says he “really grew and really developed” during the shutdown.

“I had access to a weight room, which really helped,” he said. “I wanted to focus on my speed because I know that’s one thing that people are looking at. I worked hard at it during quarantine and hard work pays off.”

GRCC should have an explosive offense again this season with Joey Silveri returning at quarterback. Silveri threw for more than 2,800 yards and 35 TDs; he also rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 19 TDs.

“Joey Silveri and I work all the time together, we have good chemistry, talk outside of school, outside of practice and we’re good friends and that really helps on the field,” Williams said.

“I feel like I’m a good deep threat, especially now with my speed, I feel I can go up and grab the ball when Joey throws it to me.”

Nolan Ziegler

GRCC lost the majority of its defense but has an outstanding player in junior safety Nolan Ziegler, who committed to Notre Dame earlier this summer. Ziegler had a game-high 10 tackles and a pass breakup in last year’s state championship game.

Todd Kolster has guided GRCC to three state titles (2016, ’17, ’19) in the last four years, anchored by former Michigan offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield during that 2016 season.

Kolster is impressed with Ziegler.

“Tom Lemming (recruiting analyst) came out and spent a couple of hours with us last week and he put Ziegler on his Junior All-American Team,” said Kolster of Ziegler. “He’s a kid that we definitely felt from Day 1. I mean, you can tell that there’s a physical trait there that’s different with these Division 1 kids, whether it’s speed or size or length, and so Nolan had the body type where if he develops could definitely blow up here and we knew that.

“He was hurt quite a bit his freshman year with different things, so he played JV a little bit his freshman year and then we brought him up for playoffs. Then, last year he played strong safety and you just saw flashes last year and thought, ‘He’s going to be special.’

“Then in the playoffs he played really well. He kind of figured it out and that’s typical for most sophomores. And then with the success he saw, knowing he also failed some, he put his head down and got in the weight room. He’s really improved, and it helps when you grow a couple of inches too.”

Ziegler, who has a 3.85 GPA, will play this season at 6-4 and 210 pounds.

“The thing with Nolan is he can really run,” Kolster said. “He’s a legitimate low-4.5 kid in the 40 and there’s just not that many of those kids. That's why all of a sudden you have Jim Harbaugh calling and offering, you get Brian Kelly calling. I’ve had Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Penn State all calling.

“He’s had a great connection with Notre Dame. Jeff Quinn -- I’ve known Jeff for a long time, coached with him at Grand Valley for three years -- he’s at Notre Dame, an O-line coach there who recruits Michigan. He came up and he started talking to Nolan and obviously loved him. Nolan’s grandpa played at Notre Dame, his uncle played at Notre Dame, his family has great connections at Notre Dame and for him, that’s just a place he feels comfortable so he committed.”