The Alabama football team has gotten its share of great recruits out of the bayou, but Tim Williams could be the sweetest.
Every football program in America has the recruit that got away—the in-state kid that was misevaluated or overlooked by a coaching staff, or the highly ranked prospect that simply wanted to leave home.
Tennessee has Randall Cobb.
Florida State has Ronnie Harrison.
Miami has Amari Cooper and Teddy Bridgewater.
Alabama has Jameis Winston (from a pure football standpoint) and Bo Jackson.
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Georgia has an unending list. A list so long that only naming one or two is doing a disservice to how hilarious Mark Richt’s ability to keep prospects at home was.
Name a school. Name a sport. They all have one. Still, no single recruit may leave a bigger black eye on a staff (or fanbase) than Alabama football linebacker, and Baton Rouge native, Tim Williams.
Tim Williams, perhaps the most dominant pass rusher in college football, attended high school at University Laboratory School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For those unfamiliar, University Lab School resides ON THE CAMPUS OF LSU. The link below provides a visual of the proximity from Tim’s high school to Tiger Stadium. Click here to check out how close, just mere blocks away.
Predictably, LSU was the long time favorite to land Williams’ commitment. In February of 2012, roughly a year from signing day, 247Sports’ LSU beat writer Shea Dixon tweeted out the following
It made sense for Les Miles to push. Gain an early commitment from the hometown Under Armour All-American and start your 2013 class out with a splash. But something changed in the next nine months. Les Miles and staff stopped recruiting the National Top 100 player in November of 2012. Speculation ran rampant. Some cited grades as the reason.
Grades are a viable option. Recruits are often dropped from a staff’s board based on grades. This would have been a believable narrative, except for the fact that Williams was being heavily recruited by the University of Miami. Miami, the newly perceived favorite for Williams’ signature at the time, is the 51st academically ranked university in America per the US News. LSU comes in at a very average ranking of 129 (Alabama comes in at 96). Admissions are often different for athletes, but it’s hard to believe that Tim Williams would have any issue with the LSU admissions office while being heavily recruited by higher ranked academic institutions.
Others cited character concerns.
Predicting that Tim Williams will never play a down for Alabama is definitely the worst (or best) part of Ian’s 2013 tweet, but let’s not overlook the hashtag. Ian, otherwise known as Nostradamus, claims that Williams has “#OffthefieldIssues.” Well, #Offthefieldissues is also a viable reason to stop recruiting someone. We’ve all witnessed the character of one bring down an entire group.
Ian wasn’t alone in his confidence that Williams had character concerns, either. In my digging through hundreds of tweets from 2012-13, those concerns were a topic often discussed amongst LSU fans. Only there is no documented ill behavior in Williams’ past, and #OffthefieldIssues have never stopped Les Miles from bringing in a top prospect. It makes little sense.
As a high school recruit, former LSU running back Jeremy Hill was arrested and charged with oral sexual battery of a 14-year-old girl in January of 2011. Hill enrolled at LSU in January of 2012.
In May of 2010, ex-Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger plead guilty to sexual battery and was banned from stepping foot in the city of Valdosta, GA. Mettenberger enrolled at LSU in January of 2011.
Those seem like #OffthefieldIssues to me. Forgive me if I refuse to believe that Les Miles would end the recruitment of an electric playmaker based on an unknown character issue that never resulted in any arrest or charge. Narrative busted.
Finally, the real reason for LSU’s decision; They simply didn’t believe that Tim Williams was good enough. Despite Williams’ lofty rankings by several services, LSU’s staff had other players higher on their board. They misevaluated Williams, as did others.
That same frame now holds 240 pounds.
Riley informs 2013 LSU signee Jeryl Brazil that “its all good” because “we have better recruits. Like you.” Yeah, Riley. LSU had a plethora of better recruits. Brazil was later dismissed from the LSU program after being arrested three times in a three-month time period. #OffthefieldIssues
I’m not sure if Ben meant to say #LSUnotreallythatupset, or if Ben is just a trendsetter, but either way, Ben was probably upset watching Tim Williams chase down Brandon Harris last season.
Some directed their anger in the wrong direction.
My favorite kind of LSU fan is the LSU fan that doesn’t know the difference between traitor and trader. I wonder what Tim Williams is trading? Probably stocks, since he was smart enough to enroll at Miami.
This definitely isn’t a big deal, Adam. Les Miles and staff decided that they didn’t need double-digit sacks every season. And a work ethic SO bad that he became the best pass rusher in college football? Imagine what he could do if he had a decent work ethic.
Even LSU’s 247Sports’ writer Sonny Shipp got in on the action. He will certainly never be Tashawn Bower, who LSU signed over Tim Williams in 2013. Bower has 1.5 career sacks. He’s big, though.
We are all blessed to witness the first scheme in the modern era of football that has no use for a pass rusher. Les Miles, the innovator.
Though rare, there were a handful of fans that questioned the decision and feared the inevitable.
He never should hear the end of it, Scott.
Entering the 2016 season, Tim Williams is projected as a high first-round draft pick by almost every early mock draft available. He finished the 2015 season with 10.5 sacks, 8 hits, and 33 hurries, while playing roughly 33-percent of Alabama’s defensive snaps. Williams is poised to take on a full-time role with the Crimson Tide in 2016.
While every staff whiffs on the recruiting trail, the recruitment of Tim Williams was more than a common swing-and-miss. Les Miles didn’t even swing. He stood in place while Nick Saban hurled a fastball that left black eyes all over the LSU football program. LSU’s staff casually passed on an All-American that went to high school on LSU’s campus, and later became the most dominant pass rusher of the Nick Saban era. A decision that I argue may result in the biggest botched recruitment in college football history.
Here is hoping the missed evaluations or #OffTheFieldIssues continue for players out of Louisiana that Nick Saban wants. And if there aren’t any like that? I think Nick Saban will still get his fair share.