There has been a lot of notoriety surrounding the Springdale (Arkansas) football program this spring and summer, and a lot of the chatter has been focused on whether there will be a group package when talking about the recruitment of quarterback Mitch Mustain, wide receiver Damian Williams and tight end Ben Cleveland.
Having spoken with each player on at least occasion, they have all reassured me that while they will certainly entertain the possibility of playing together, they will make their own decisions.
That became further evident this past week when Damian Williams narrowed his list to five schools before heading out to a recent 7-on-7 camp.
"I have narrowed my list to Florida, Texas, Arkansas, LSU, and Iowa," Williams said. "Really, I like all of these schools equally right now and all of them have what it takes to blow me away. I wish I could say I was leaning to one program right now, but it isn't that easy when you have to compare these programs."
Williams quickly ran down what stood out about his final five schools.
Texas: "I really like the coaching staff at Texas, and how they run things there. I went to their camp earlier this summer, and was quite impressed."
Florida: "Coach (Urban) Meyer is a great guy, and Coach Gonzalez, my position coach, is a great coach to play for. I really think they are going to shock people this fall, and the program is headed for some big things."
LSU: "I haven't missed watching an LSU game probably in the last 16 years. My whole family is from Louisiana and I definitely grew up an LSU fan. Coach (Les) Miles did some great things at Oklahoma State, including having produced one of the best wide receivers in Rashaun Woods, and they have two great young quarterbacks."
Arkansas: "I love the Hogs, and really have become a bigger fan of their program the past few years. I have known Coach (Houston) Nutt my whole life as I played basketball with his son growing up. It also helps that it is so close to home."
Iowa: "Iowa was the first school to ever write me a letter. I have spoken with their coaches several times, and heading into my junior year, they were the first camp I ever attended. Coach (Kirk) Ferentz even sent me a hand-written birthday card, which was signed by the entire coaching staff."
Williams made the trek up to Iowa City in the summer of 2004 along with several teammates, including high profile quarterback Mitch Mustain. That is where he gained his first true appreciation of the Hawkeye program.
"I was greatly impressed with what I saw up at Iowa and the coaching staff overall. I have not only spoken to Coach (Ron) Aiken on the phone, but I have spoken with Coach Ferentz a few times as well. They even have spoken to my mother more than a few times, and I know she loves them and they love her, too. It always helps when you get on the mother's good side," Williams stated.
Williams noted he really enjoyed both conversations he shared on the phone with Coach Ferentz, and recalled the last time the two had spoken.
"It was pretty special to talk with Coach Ferentz when he called during the month of May," added Williams, who says his mother is the reason he knows how to handle the media so well. "He called me during my prom night as I was getting ready. He told me how he just had a daughter go through a prom, and how special he knew it was. He made sure, of all people, that he wasn't taking up too much of my time. He just said he wanted me to know that he was thinking about me."
The veteran coach and father also made sure to pass along some advice.
"Of course, he told me to be careful and stay out of trouble," Williams noted.
Williams doesn't expect to make any other visits until he begins his official trips. He said that he planned to include Iowa as one of the official visits he will make, but has not talked any dates with the Iowa staff or any other staff, yet.
Knowing that both Damian Williams and Ben Cleveland have stated they will be making visits to Iowa City, I asked Williams if he felt the chances were good that Mustain would also make the trip up north once again.
"Well, I've know Mitchell Stuart Mustain my entire life," said Williams laughingly. "I don't like to speak for him, and I don't know if Iowa is in his top five or anything, but I know he was with me in Iowa City last summer. He was just as impressed as I was up there, and I know they are a program that has his interest."