Mark Richt weighs in on how recent losses have affected recruiting
The past few years have been defined by waiting for DJ Williams. As a sophomore, he waited in the back of the running back rotation at Sebring as a talented group of underclassmen shouldered the load. As a junior, Williams waited once again as injuries and rainouts kept him from putting together the sort of film he hoped he would be able to.
Now a senior, Williams once again had to wait for the schools from Power 5 conferences to take notice. It’s why he committed to the Appalachian State Mountaineers in July and why he had to put some of the frustrations of waiting aside when the Miami Hurricanes, his childhood favorite team, finally offered Williams on Nov. 9.
“He grew up a Miami fan,” said LaVaar Scott, Williams’ high school coach. “Obviously, that was a dream come true for him. Just like everybody was late, it was late, so obviously you’ve got to end up getting past that and just now go through the whole recruiting process.”
When the Hurricanes finally offered, Scott didn’t have to wait long for more. In the span of one week, the Georgia Bulldogs, Auburn Tigers, Mississippi Rebels, Tennessee Volunteers and Texas Longhorns all also offered Williams, whom 247Sports.com now pegs as the No. 35 running back in the country.
For Miami, Georgia and Auburn, at least, the courtship is particularly serious. Williams has already taken official visits with the Hurricanes and Tigers, and has another planned with the Bulldogs for December. After he waited so long, Williams will now have to make his final college choice in a hurry. The three-star running back will sign during the December early signing period and early enroll at the school of his choice next year.
Obviously, the kid was a little bit shocked — shell-shocked — because he didn’t know if this was going to really, truly happen,” Scott said. “Now the dream school has offered, but let’s make sure we still go through the process.”
The Miami ties for Williams are numerous. Williams isn’t just an in-state prospect. He’s a nephew of former Hurricanes running back Edgerrin James, who ranks third in Miami history in all-time rushing yards. Scott played for the Hurricanes, too, as a defensive end in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Scott’s older brother is Larry Scott, who served as Miami’s interim coach after former coach Al Golden was fired in 2015.
Williams finally got his look at his dream school last Friday, when he began his official visit in Coral Gables. He watched the Hurricanes beat the Pittsburgh Panthers 24-3 on Saturday in Miami Gardens and has the Hurricanes firmly in the mix for a flip as his decision deadline approaches. Ever since three-star running back Marcus Crowley flipped his pledge from Miami to Ohio State on Nov. 4, Miami has pinpointed Williams as one of its top options at the position.
“For a while, Miami had their kids committed so they were already in pretty good shape,” Scott said. “The minute the second kid decommitted, they knew that they had to get out and get a back and obviously was DJ was one of the first guys.”
It all came together thanks to a massive senior season for Williams. The athlete had play a lot of quarterback for the Blue Streaks and was a true dual threat. He ran for 1,320 yards and 21 touchdowns on 135 carries, and also completed 93 of 150 passes for 1,185 yards and another 13 touchdowns.
None of this surprised Scott, even if Williams effectively came out of nowhere on the recruiting scene.
“It was what we expected from him,” Scott said. “We had a very young line, a very small line when you look at our film — we played with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores — so what he did was just phenomenal, and I think that’s what was able to let him showcase really what he can do because sometimes he was his own blocker and sometimes he had to bust through four or five tackles.
“If you put him behind [Bradenton IMG Academy] or some of the bigger lines around the country, he’d run for 2,500 yards.”