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Ryan Williams says there is no special strategy for official visits

Ryan Williams leaps over a defender for a touchdown on a fade route in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic in Hattiesburg in December. (Helen Joyce/Call News)

By JIMMY WIGFIELD

Saraland’s Ryan Williams — the nation’s highest-ranked unsigned player in the 2024 class — said fans shouldn’t read much into the scheduled order of his three official visits.

The five-star prospect, who is rated the No. 3 wide receiver prospect and the No. 8 overall player in the 2024 class by On3.com, reclassified in December and will graduate a year early in May. He has consistently said he remains firmly committed to the Crimson Tide and has scheduled an official visit to Tuscaloosa on Jan. 20. But he has also scheduled official visits to Texas — where Spartans quarterback K.J. Lacey has committed — on Jan. 27 and Auburn on Feb. 3. Williams has said he plans to sign on Feb. 9, his 17th birthday.

Tigers coach Hugh Freeze wanted the final visit, Williams said, and Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian settled for the middle visit.

“It’s just the way it went,” Williams said. “Coach Freeze called the last one and coach Sark said if he couldn’t have the last one that he wanted the second one. Bama said they were happy having the first one, that they’d seal the deal early.”

Williams said he is enjoying making his final destination somewhat mysterious.

“Of course,” he said. “It makes my recruiting process more exciting. I’ll always remember it.”

Williams also must consider recent coaching changes at Alabama and Auburn. Tide receivers coach Holmon Wiggins has left for Texas A&M while Freeze fired offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery and indicated he will take over as the play-caller in 2024.

“It’s definitely part of my deciding factor,” Williams said. “Coach Wiggins and I had developed a great relationship. I know Alabama will do a tremendous job filling that position. Coach Freeze is probably going to his offense. It’s something I take with a grain of salt.”

Williams (6-1, 175) had some memorable moments last week when he was selected Alabama’s Gatorade Player of the Year for the second straight season and starred in the Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando, Fla. He caught a touchdown pass to open the scoring in that game and also threw a two-point conversion pass after deking a defender.

During the week of practice, Williams — at 16 the youngest player on the list of select invitees — beat Auburn signee Cam Coleman in a fastest man preliminary race before being edged by Clay-Chalkville rival and Alabama signee Jaylen Mbakwe in the finals.

Williams joked that Mbakwe knew better than to pick on him and would retire 1-0 in his career in races against the man called Hollywood.

“He said he was never going to race me again,” Williams said.

Williams — who ran a 4.48 40 after one practice in Orlando and has been timed at fast as 4.38 (and touched 23 mph) — said he had no time to rest between racing Coleman and Mbakwe.

“I had to run them back-to-back,” Williams said. “My break between Cam and Jaylen was jogging back over to the line. But I enjoyed it.”

More importantly, Williams said he gained valuable intelligence on some of the best defensive backs in the nation while in Orlando.

“I was just out there doing what I do,” he said. “Just being down there with all that talent, I was going against the best DBs in the country and they showed me a curve — I got an understanding of how they like to play and how it’s going to be at the next level.”

Williams caught a 16-yard TD pass from Mississippi State signee Michael Van Buren to open the scoring in the Under Armour All-American Game and later threw to Van Buren for a two-point conversion as his Team Ice beat Team Fire 39-9.

Later this month, Williams will go for the unprecedented sweep of winning the Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year and the Alabama Mr. Football award in two straight years. He was the first sophomore to win Mr. Football last season and this year’s winner will be announced on Jan. 16.

Other Gatorade Player of the Year winners include Emmitt Smith and Peyton Manning.

“Winning the first one was rare and doesn’t happen often (to a sophomore),” Williams said of the Gatorade honor. “It’s something I take pride in. The second one was a lot more rare.”

Williams caught 71 passes for 1,320 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2023, ran for 269 yards and seven TDs, threw a touchdown pass and returned a kickoff and a punt for scores.

Williams, who has a weighted 3.47 grade-point average, is also a member of the Saraland High Student Council and has volunteered to help with the Special Olympics and as a youth football coach.

 

Gill, McWilliams,

Alfred get UA invites

 

Three Saraland skill players have received invitations to prestigious Under Armour events in February.

Running back Santae McWilliams and receiver C.D. Gill will go to the UA Next Football Camp in Atlanta on Feb. 18. Wide receiver Dillon Alfred will go to the UA Next Football Series in Orlando on Feb. 11.

McWilliams, a three-year starter, ran for 1,024 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2023 and has 2,527 yards and 36 TDs in his career. He has averaged 5.9 yards per carry in his career.

Gill, also a three-year starter, had 48 receptions for 708 yards and four TDs in 2023 and has 97 catches for 1,474 yards and 11 TDs in his career.

Alfred, who transferred from Gautier, Miss., for his junior season, had 35 catches for 586 yards and 6 TDs in 2023.

1 Comment

  1. Kelly DeFord on January 17, 2024 at 8:57 pm

    Man I love reading articles in The Call about them SARALAND SPARTAN FOOTBALL TEAM. Those games are the closest
    you get to seeing college ball in your own back yard and gives instant gratification to tax dollars!
    #jointheland #goSpartans

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