Alabama Football: Is Ryan Williams WR1?

Saraland's Ryan Williams (1) scores a touchdown against Clay-Chalkville during the AHSAA Class 6A
Saraland's Ryan Williams (1) scores a touchdown against Clay-Chalkville during the AHSAA Class 6A / Mickey Welsh / USA TODAY NETWORK

It won’t be official until he signs on February 9th, but 5-star wide receiver Ryan Williams is coming to Tuscaloosa to play for Alabama Football and new coach Kalen DeBoer.

On Wednesday evening, Williams re-committed to the Crimson Tide, canceling his scheduled official visit to Auburn just one day after canceling a visit to Texas. 

Despite re-classifying from the class of 2025, Ryan Williams is maybe the most electric prospect in the country, at wide receiver or at any other position. His presence will instantly boost the ceiling of an Alabama Football receiver room that was already going to be very good. Bama’s elite offensive staff, including offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb and receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard, will have every opportunity to build an offense even more prolific than the one they had in Seattle.

Alabama Football: Is Ryan Williams WR1?

Of course, this can’t really be known until the speedy freshman gets on campus. Even for a talent like Williams, it won’t be easy to crack the starting lineup immediately. Bama has several former blue-chip receivers that have multiple years of college experience that he will have to beat out. Additionally, Ryan Williams won’t participate in spring ball, which will give him less time to leave an impression on the coaching staff and his teammates. 

The leading returning receivers for Alabama Football are juniors Kobe Prentice and Kendrick Law, both of whom were proficient in niche roles in the 2023 receiving corps.

Prentice is primarily a possession receiver in the slot, notching 49 career catches for 651 yards and four touchdowns through two seasons in the program. Law was more seldom-used, but had several promising moments as a gadget player and kick returner. He is the most physical of the Alabama receivers and is an elite blocker, making him a valuable chess piece for the Bama offense.

The Tide also returns sophomore Jalen Hale, who showed flashes as a true freshman, and brings in talented Washington transfer Germie Bernard

This is a good group, and any of these receivers could prove that they have WR1 qualities in 2024. The consensus, however, is that Ryan Williams has the highest ceiling in this room by a large margin. 

Previously, highly-touted wide receivers such as Julio Jones (2008), Amari Cooper (2012), and Calvin Ridley (2015) have become WR1 in Tuscaloosa as true freshmen, so it is possible. As Bama has loaded up on receivers in recent years, it has become significantly more difficult to do. Elite talents such as eventual Biletnikoff Award winner Jerry Jeudy and eventual Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, both of whom joined the program in 2017, had to wait their turn to an extent.  

While the 2024 wide receiver room for Alabama Football is very good, it’s not as proven as it has been in past years. As a result, I think it is more conducive to allow Ryan Williams to come in and shine. Law, Prentice, and Bernard are talented receivers, but none has ever been the featured guy. Heading into their junior seasons, these three have performed best in complementary roles. 

It may take Ryan Williams a few games to acclimate to the speed of SEC football, but I think there is a strong chance he becomes the top receiver for Alabama Football by season’s end.