Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings, a rundown of everything happening in Alabama Crimson Tide recruiting with Chris Kirschner. Today, we discuss the latest with Kentucky quarterback commit Jarren Williams, who was offered by Alabama earlier this week.
LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — A Rivals.com article written on April 25, 2016, is still getting at least three clicks a week because of Kentucky quarterback commit Jarren Williams, who was offered by Alabama earlier this week.
Before Williams works out with his Central Gwinnett High School teammates and before he meets with his trainer Quincy Avery, Williams pulls out his iPhone and reads what was written about him on that day and thinks about how far he’s come.
Williams attended the Rivals Five-Star Challenge last year and struggled. He was rated as the worst quarterback in attendance. It was so bad that the author of the story said it’s hard to project him as a quarterback in college.
That’s fueled him.
“I still read it to this day. I use that as motivation,” Williams told SEC Country. “I still have it saved in my phone. I look at it 3-4 times a week. That’s motivation to me. I love it.”
Since attending that camp, Williams has committed to Kentucky and picked up offers from Alabama, Florida, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee and plenty more along the way. Williams didn’t have a personal quarterback trainer when he went to the Rivals camp. He credits Avery and Todd Wofford, the head coach at Central Gwinnett, for developing him into the quarterback he is today.
“My mechanics weren’t crisp back then,” Williams said. “I never had a trainer. My form wasn’t good. They wrote that they couldn’t see me playing the position at all in college. I was so upset because I’m a competitor, so I did something about it.
“Coach Wofford was always there for me. My trainer really cleaned me up, too. Before him, I would just go throw with my teammates and not work on anything. He really helped me with my form.”
Alabama offered Williams a scholarship during a visit to Tuscaloosa on Tuesday. Nick Saban told Williams that he has what he’s looking for in his potential Class of 2018 quarterback. Saban wants a combination of a pro-style passer and a dual-threat quarterback.
That’s what Williams is, according to Wofford.
“He has all of the physical abilities that Alabama is looking for,” Wofford said. “He’s 6-foot-3 and has a very strong, accurate arm. On top of that, he can run. He’s not an athlete playing quarterback. He’s a quarterback who can pass and who also happens to be athletic enough to run. He has that ‘it’ factor. I think that’s something Nick Saban likes.”
The familiarity with Alabama
When Williams was 10 years old, he won the Saban Award.
Williams attended one of Saban’s football camps for younger kids and was presented that award, which was given to the best player in attendance. The nation’s No. 18 dual-threat quarterback was able to vividly recall stepping into Alabama’s indoor facility at that age and being wowed by it. He had just begun to play quarterback the year prior when he outgrew running back, so winning the award at that camp was one of Williams’ first moments of validation that he could play the position.
Revisiting Tuscaloosa on Tuesday was Williams’ first time meeting Saban since the camp. The coach didn’t remember the interaction back then, but they had a good laugh about how it’s come full circle now.
Coach Wofford also is very familiar with Alabama.
Before coming to Central Gwinnett, Wofford was the offensive coordinator at Gainesville (Ga.) High School, home of former Alabama quarterback Blake Sims. Wofford was very involved in Sims’ recruiting process and became very aware of what kind of athlete and person Saban is seeking.
“Jarren is a disciplined kid, and Nick Saban is the definition of a disciplinarian type of coach,” Wofford said. “He’s just one of those guys who can be the face of any program he goes to. He’s one of those types of players Coach Saban would go for.”
Sims and Williams are two totally different players, though. Sims committed to Alabama as an athlete. He was a running back from 2010-13 before becoming the team’s starting quarterback in 2014. That’s the main difference between the two players. There’s sometimes a negative connotation with the phrase “dual-threat” because some fans think that player is just an athlete who can also throw, but that’s not Williams.
“Blake was more of a runner who could also pass. Jarren is more of a passer who could also run,” Wofford said. “Right now, at this time in high school, Jarren is a more polished passer than what Blake was. On the flip side, Blake could play any position on the field. He returned kicks for us. Those are the differences between the two.”
Williams didn’t throw his first interception last season until the eighth game of the season, and that came on a tipped pass. He finished his junior season throwing for 2,618 yards with 26 touchdowns and 4 interceptions while rushing for 396 yards and 9 touchdowns in 11 games.
Not bad for someone who almost a year ago was practically written off as a passer.
The next former Kentucky QB commit turned Alabama commit?
Mac Jones was looked at as Kentucky’s leader in the Class of 2017 before flipping to Alabama during one of Saban’s summer camp sessions last year. The quarterback is now competing in spring practice in Tuscaloosa.
Flash forward nearly a year after Jones flipped from Kentucky to Alabama, and here we are with another Wildcats quarterback commit who is viewed as one of the building blocks in their class.
Shortly after tweeting his offer from Alabama, assistants from Kentucky reached out to Williams. They didn’t mention him picking up an offer from the Crimson Tide, but they made sure to let him know how excited they were to host him for a visit this weekend when he travels to Lexington for the team’s spring game.
Florida, Florida State, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Tennessee are the schools trying their hardest to flip Williams away from Kentucky. It remains to be seen if Alabama is going to join that group, but the Tide staff is expected at Central Gwinnett to see Williams throw in person in the next few weeks.
It’s not going to be easy for any school to change his mind on Kentucky. The Wildcats were there for him when he was still that quarterback who would likely have to make a position change at some point.
“It matters that they were there,” Williams said. “You want to go somewhere where you’re a priority. You don’t want to go somewhere where nobody really knows who you are and the coaches aren’t high on you. I know I’m a priority at Kentucky. They took me in when I didn’t really know anything about recruiting. They have made me feel like I’m a part of the team.
“I’m firmly committed. People have asked me a lot lately where I stand and if I’m looking around. I wouldn’t say that the word is looking. It’s more so I’m listening to what others have to say.”
The 6-foot-3, 211-pound prospect did have to listen to everything Alabama said on Tuesday. He got a chance to talk to Mac Jones for a little, but they didn’t talk about Jones’ decision to leave Kentucky. They just talked about what it’s been like for Jones so far at Alabama.
Williams got a chance to sit in a quarterbacks meeting with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and quarterbacks Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa and Jones. The biggest takeaway from that experience was how in-depth the Tide’s offense is but how easy it is to learn if you’re one of those QBs.
“With coach Daboll, he’s very in-depth, but it’s simple at the same time,” Williams said. “It’s not as complicated as you’d think. On TV, you see them doing all these hand signals and it pretty much should just be Chinese, but it’s something I can definitely see myself doing.
“He makes the offense very simple to understand. The defense is always wrong. That’s how he coaches. Every play, there’s always someone that’s going to be open. That’s what he was stressing.”
Alabama has offered 18 quarterbacks in the Class of 2018, with many of them already committed elsewhere. The Tide are having a somewhat difficult time when it comes to the quarterback position this cycle because of the young depth they have.
The good news is that if Williams did decide Alabama was the school for him, competition and waiting his turn wouldn’t be a negative. Wofford said Alabama has used the lack of bodies at the position as a selling point in conversations with him.
“Some places will tell you that you’re going to start right away,” Wofford said. “To me, that’s not a good situation. You’re telling a kid who is still in high school that he’s the one that’s going to start for you. Something isn’t going well if that’s the situation, in my opinion.
“You want to learn from a veteran first. The learning curve is huge in the SEC. Those are the best defenses in the nation. They’re pretty much NFL defenses. You have to learn. Baptism by fire isn’t always the best option.”
Williams will enroll early at the school of his choice. He’s not sure about official visits and future unofficial visits at this time, but Alabama certainly opened his eyes to other options. Williams expects to throw for the Alabama staff this spring and see where it goes from there.
“It’s a big decision, so I am making sure I do my due diligence to see if Kentucky is the best fit for me to be successful,” Williams said.