The future stars of Ohio State football officially begin their Buckeye careers as standouts from all over the country put pens to their National Letters of Intent.
Antonio Williams has had an interesting recruitment, and while the four-star tailback from New London, North Carolina has been committed to three different schools, he couldn't be happier to have found his future home in Columbus.
The Williams File
- Class 2016
- Position RB
- Size 5-11/220
- School North Stanly (New London, NC)
- Composite ★★★★
- Rank 6 (RB)
Williams burst onto the scene at the 2013 Rivals Underclassmen Challenge where he was named the event's top running back just a few short weeks after finishing his freshman year of high school. After becoming the first 2016 prospect to earn an offer from Larry Fedora, the 5-foot-11, 220-pound back committed to the in-state Tar Heels in September of 2013.
Williams would go on to earn offers from Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, and a number of other top-tier programs. However, it was Wisconsin which won out, securing his pledge in December of 2014. The commitment stuck for the better part of a year, and then the Buckeyes came calling in October.
While the Buckeyes offered the four-star tailback well before his verbal to Wisconsin, they weren't really in the picture until October. Running backs coach Tony Alford had recruited Williams when he was still at Notre Dame, and that — combined with the uncertainty surrounding Kareem Walker — prompted the Buckeyes to turn up the heat on the North Carolina standout. Renewed interest late in the process hardly means the nation's sixth-ranked tailback was some sort of backup plan, however.
Williams discussed the process with Ohio State in an interview with cleveland.com:
"The thing a lot people don't realize is that they offered me way, way back before I committed to Wisconsin, actually," Williams told NEOMG. "So that didn't make me feel like I was a backup plan. I'm no backup plan, or anything else. When they came back, it made me feel like something that came back open and I took advantage of an opportunity." Via
As a freshman, Williams rushed for 1,412 yards and 13 touchdowns. His senior campaign included 2,150 yards and 23 scores while averaging over 10 yards per carry. He finished his high school career with 7,999 rushing yards, 446 receiving yards and 86 touchdowns.
The increased interest from Urban Meyer and Alford led to the scheduling of an unofficial visit to Columbus. On October 14, just three short days before the scheduled visit, Williams officially decommitted from Wisconsin.
Getting a visit from an early enrollee that late in the process is big news in itself. It's even bigger news when that early enrollee is looking for a new destination and could potentially return to campus again for an official.
While on his visit, it didn't take long for Williams to jump at the opportunity to play for the Buckeyes. One of the nation's top tailbacks made it official in the morning hours of October 18.
Officially committed to The Ohio State University!!— Antonio Williams (@A_B_Williams34) October 18, 2015
With that, Alford had a two-headed monster of tailbacks set to sign with the 2016 class. Things obviously changed with Walker, and Williams now finds himself as the lone tailback in the class. When asked about the potential competition in the backfield, he showed one of the many reasons he is so coveted by several of the nation's elite programs.
"Every conversation I've had (with the Buckeyes) has been about Antonio Williams and Ohio State," the former Badger commit said. "There's a great opportunity that I'm taking advantage of definitely, and the early playing time talk has been there. I feel that I'm coming in to work harder than any other back and make Ohio State have to play me because of my work-ethic and my ability. I want to be the best. If I prove it, I know coach will play the best player, so the early playing time has been talked about, but there's always steps to get there."
The nation's sixth-ranked tailback brings a primarily north-and-south running game to Columbus and recognizes there are still areas in which he can improve.
"I feel that I'm just a compete back honestly. The last 40-yard dash I ran was a 4.42, I'm right at 220 pounds, I'm very strong and have great pass-catching ability," Williams said confidently. "I feel I'm a complete guy that still can improve in every single area."
The Ohio State coaching staff would appear to be in agreement, as they've compared Williams' game to that of two past and present Buckeye greats.
"(Urban) Meyer said I remind him of a combination of Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott," Williams shared. "When I started really getting into football I was watching this guy on the sidelines with Tim Tebow. Now he's wanting me?"
Williams will be playing in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl on New Year's Day and will begin his trek to Columbus shortly thereafter. His Twitter page has been filled with Ohio State love since the day he committed, and you will be hard-pressed to find someone who is more excited to be a Buckeye.
Signed my financial aid agreement to tOSU. Officially accepted to tOSU. I'm a freaking buckeye!— Antonio Williams (@A_B_Williams34) November 19, 2015
With Ezekiel Elliott headed to the NFL, there's going to be an opportunity for some newcomers to see significant carries in 2016. Mike Weber looked great this summer before suffering a knee injury, and he's expected by many to be the frontrunner to take over in the Buckeye backfield. However, with Williams set to enroll in just a few weeks, don't be surprised if he's able to sneak into the two-deep at some point next season. His last visit to Ohio State, his official visit, helped him see exactly what may be necessary to earn his stripes on campus and in the locker room.
"I can't wait to get there. It's going to be great. All the commits got along immediately. The connections we made with the current players, future players and with the coaching staff. Seeing how intense practices are. Seeing and going in depth with the campus. Everything was great," Williams told 11W. "The biggest thing I took away (from the visit) is what to expect (when I get on campus). I know what I have to do, to do what I want to do. I have to just to come in and compete."