RECRUITING: UF makes impression on Williams

At 6-2, 290 pounds and only a junior in high school, he still has room to grow. As a first team All-State selection in his junior year, Longwood-Lyman defensive tackle Ian Williams can still get better. He's already good enough to be offered a scholarship by the University of Florida and has learned to appreciate everything that comes his way, including being invited to Junior Day on the UF campus last weekend.

(Ian Williams profile)

As a junior, Williams already has an array of impressive statistics: 83 tackles (23 of them for a loss), 12 quarterback hurries, 4 forced fumbles, 2 sacks, 4 passes broken up, 4 fumbles recovered, and a partridge in a pear tree (thanks to DarthOneGator for that one!).

Those kind of numbers earned Williams a special trip to Gainesville to see what the University of Florida had to offer on their first Junior Day of the 2007 recruiting season.

"I was there Saturday and showed up around 6:30," said Williams. "I got to meet some of the other kids from Lakeland and Tampa. I got to see Coach Mattison, my defensive line coach, and see Coach Strong. It's a good bunch of guys and a great family atmosphere."

Not surprisingly, the Gator that stood out to most, especially to Williams, was Tim Tebow. "The only player I met was Tim Tebow," Williams said. "He was a pretty big guy for a quarterback. That surprised me when he spoke. I think in the next few years he will be a real good leader when Chris Leak leaves."

After Tebow spoke, the staff was introduced to the prospects in attendance. Next was a quick trip to the Swamp and then to see the Gators take on Kentucky in hoops with a frenzied O'Connell Center crowd on hand. Williams was more than impressed.

"We had a little get together and they introduced the coaches to us," Williams said. "We had a couple of snacks and then watched a highlight film on the big screen in the Swamp. Then we went over to the basketball game. It was a great game to be at and a big influence on me. I really like Florida as of right now, I really do."

The Gators haven't always been at the forefront of William's thoughts until recently. As a matter of fact, he's always been a Florida State fan.

"My favorite team was Florida State," he said. "Craphonso Thorpe was my cousin and he played for Florida State. You know how sometimes you fall in love with the first team you see, that's why I liked them when I was younger."

Fortunately for the Gators, all of that changed after last week.

"When Urban Meyer came to see me, he came to the school a week ago Friday and wanted to watch some film on me," he said. "They liked what they saw. They showed they really wanted me. Coach Strong sent me a text (message) on Tuesday and when I called they told me they wanted to offer me a scholarship. When he said that, I couldn't stop smiling. They are my top team right now."

The talented defensive tackle does everything on the field as a football player, but he's only been playing the sport in an organized fashion for a little over three years. Family finances made it tough for Williams to get on the field as an only child in a one parent home living with his mother.

"I started my freshman year, that was the first year of organized football," Williams said. "I played basketball and football as a freshman. Then football and weightlifting as a sophomore.

He will probably play offensive guard also for Lyman this year, but will certainly be a defensive tackle at the next level. He thinks he understand what his coaches see in him.

"Coaches would say that I play with leverage and speed," he said. "I learned the leverage from my defensive line coach and just from watching football. When I was younger I would just watch film of college and pro teams and try it myself."

Williams is already in the middle of weight lifting season and will participate on the Lyman track team in the shot put and discuss. In the meantime, he will start preparing for the deluge of recruiting calls and messages, some of which has already started. He already has five schools on his list.

"Florida is the only offer right now," he said. "I get a lot of letters and mail from Auburn and UCF and a couple of other schools. I would say my top schools would be Florida, Florida State, Auburn, UCF, and Miami."

"I have to work on my academics, that is the most important thing," said Williams. "I have a 3.0 average in my core courses right now, and I will take the first ACT two weeks from now and the SAT soon after that. I want to work on trying to be a better player. I need to listen to my coaches and get better at the little things my coaches can teach me to be the best I can be."

Williams participated in the US Army All-American combine in San Antonio in January and then made the trip to Gainesville. He has already started making friends on the recruiting trail.

"I met a couple of kids that were also at the combine in Texas," said Williams. "The Pouncey twins were there, Chris Rainey, Stephen Garcia. There was a good one from Pensacola and a couple of good ones from Miami. Unfortunately, John Brown wasn't there."

Gator fans should look forward to hearing from Ian Williams over the next year. The need for defensive tackles will magnify when the top three on the Gator squad leave after the 2006 season. Williams will be a big part of the mix on the recruiting board for Florida.

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