Anthony Williams Commits To Illinois

As signing day nears, Illinois football recruiting is picking up more commitments. The latest to verbal to the school is Anthony Williams, a tall pass catcher out of Virginia. New offensive coordinator Paul Petrino is looking to expand downfield passing, and Williams should be a good-sized target for Illini quarterbacks.

Anthony Williams, a receiver out of Atlantic Shores Christian Academy in Virginia Beach, Virginia, called Illinois coaches with good news.

"I committed to Illinois."

His official visit to the school is not scheduled until January 22, but he is certain he made the correct choice.

"I always wanted to play big-time football. I'd been there already for the Nike training camp in June. I like the campus so far, and the atmosphere. I did get a little tour up there."

He also likes new offensive coordinator Paul Petrino.

"I like him a lot. He came to my house recently, and he was going over plays and how he works the receivers. He's looking at me as a wide receiver."

Williams was extremely pleased with his senior season.

"I did spectacular actually. My junior year I played at a running school before I moved to the Academy. I think I had 8 catches. This year, I had a school record 69 catches for 845 yards and 7 touchdowns. I'm not the fastest kid, but I know how to run a route, and I know how to catch the ball away from my body."

Atlantic Shores' coach Wayne Lantz was even more specific in his assessment of Williams' athleticism.

"He played wide receiver and tight end for us, and he played linebacker and safety as well. He's a very good all-around athlete, good student, good person. He is a unique athlete. He can walk on the basketball court, shoot threes and then run down and dunk it.

"He's got a lot of good attributes on the field. He's tall, and it's hard to teach height. He runs great routes, and he moves well. A lot of kids who are tall don't move well, but that's not Anthony. He's very smooth and makes good transition in his route running.

"He understands coverage, leverage and all the little things that come with the position. He has very strong hands and doesn't let any balls go through his finger tips.

"We were fortunate to be able to move him around because of his talents. We had him play some tight end too just in case people saw him in that capacity. He really did a great job. And he covered a lot of field at linebacker and safety."

Some schools have recruited him as a tight end, but that isn't the position Lantz thinks is best for him. In fact, he compares Williams with Marques Colston of the New Orleans Saints and Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions for his ability to gain separation over the middle.

"It really depends on the system. I think he's truly a wide receiver. He's an excellent blocker should someone want to slap some weight on him and bulk him up. He's got the frame for that as well. Most of the schools he's been talking to have talked about him playing receiver. I think his best thing is his route running.

"Hopefully, we've done a good job preparing him for the next level. We're no-huddle, multiple formation sets, and we have about 40 routes in our package. He understands a lot of complex routes. And my receiver coach played at Memphis, so he not only got our system but was coached by a guy who played at the Division I level."

Atlantic Shores Christian Academy plays a rigorous schedule.

"We ended up losing in the private school state semifinals. We won the state title a year ago, so we knew coming in we would have probably the hardest schedule in our division in the state. We traveled about 2000 miles to play our games. We played schools in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and West Virginia, so that was interesting."

"This is a great area for competition. The Tide Water/Virginia Beach area is putting out kids. Last year, I believe there were 40 kids that signed Division I scholarships. It's a talent-rich population for football."

Williams was an under-the-radar player. He was not highly recruited as Illinois' competition was Bowling Green and Central Michigan. North Carolina and Boston College showed some interest as well. Part of it was his playing on a running team his junior year. But Lantz says many players from his area don't get recruited until late.

"For whatever reason, a lot of our kids get their offers in January. Sometimes things will start picking up in December. It's just one of those things. All our guys have gone on and been successful. All that matters is what you do on signing day and what you do from there."

Williams is looking forward to college. He would like to earn early playing time.

"I hopefully want to get on the field early. I'll try to."

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