After spending a few minutes speaking with Miami (Fla.) Carol City’s Willie Williams, it’s easy to detect one characteristic that helps make him one of the nation’s most sought-after players in the Class of 2004.
Williams (6-2, 225, 4.42) is oozing with it, and he wastes few words boasting or making claims he can’t back up. Simply put, he knows he’s good.
“I’m very excited about this season after the way this summer went,” he said. “I really got a chance to show out, and I learned a lot that’s going to make me even better this year. I think the whole country knows about my talent now. It’s a good feeling. Every kid would love to be getting this kind of attention.”
Asked what his offer sheet looks like now, Williams laughed.
“The USA,” he said. “Everybody who’s talked to me has offered. It would take us a pretty long time to go through all of them.”
Coming off a junior season which saw him record a whopping 218 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 10 pass break-ups, eight sacks and four interceptions, Williams is a member of the Rivals100 Team and the No. 1 rated outside linebacker in the nation. His combination of size, speed, strength and instincts are nearly unmatched in this class.
And while every program in the country would like to see him in their uniform, Williams says he’s narrowed his list to a lucky six.
“My top six right now are Florida State, Miami, Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Auburn,” he said. “I’m not really putting any of them in the lead right now. I’ve got to do some more research on them and see what the depth charts look like. I need to find out where the best opportunity for me to come in and make an impact will be. I’m also looking at their coaches and how their communication skills are with me. That’s going to be a big part of my decision.”
Asked if he was leaning toward staying in-state or branching out, Williams said “I’m keeping an open mind to both. There are some great programs here, but I’ve been very impressed with those other schools.”
Williams gave a brief comment on each of the programs on his list, starting with the Sunshine State’s “Big Three”:
“When I went up to Florida State for camp, I just loved everything about it. It was great. The campus and stadium were really nice. They had the best lockerrooms. Those were unbelievable. I also liked the coaches there a lot. Their linebackers coach, coach (Kevin) Steele, was a really good communicator, both football-wise and on a personal level. He showed a lot of interest in me as a person as well as a player. He seemed like he really cared about his players.
“Miami’s obviously got a great program, and it’s the school that’s right here. I know a lot of people who go there, and it feels the most like home. There wouldn’t be any big adjustment if I went there. Coach (Vernon) Hargreaves seems like a really good coach to play for. He impressed me at camp.
“Florida has some great facilities. The stadium really gets your attention. I can’t imagine how loud that place gets where it’s sitting down there with all those seats on top of you. Running out on the field with that atmosphere has to be incredible. I can picture myself doing that. I also liked their weightroom and conditioning program. Those are important things to me. I want to be somewhere I can get the best facilities possible and reach my full potential.”
Concerning the three out-of-state programs on his list, Williams said:
“Ohio State and Oklahoma have been recruiting me as hard as anyone and as long as anyone. They were in on me from the start, and I get something in the mail everyday from those guys. Who wouldn’t be impressed by that? Ohio State is the national champion, so that stands out, and Oklahoma was just a couple of years ago. Everybody has those two teams up there high again this year. I like the way both of them play defense, too. Ohio State was incredible last year. Oklahoma is always tough, and they have a defensive scheme that would really fit my style.
“Auburn is another great program with some great facilities. I haven’t been there, but I’m going to try to make a visit. I’ll probably visit all three of those schools out of state. But they’re a school that’s been recruiting me hard and is looking for linebackers. I think I might have a good chance to step in there and play early.”
In the meantime, Williams is focused on his senior season and taking care of academics. He maintains a 3.0 GPA and is awaiting his test scores. He projects as a full-qualifier.