Best Kept Secret in Florida

Here we profile one of the elite prospects in the entire state of Florida, yet he is getting very little attention thus far. Rest assured, this is a prospect to take notice of.

When watching Miami (Fla.) Monsignor Pace play, you can't help but notice what appears to be one of the state's elite prospects - middle linebacker Willie Williams.

Measured at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds at a summer camp in July, Williams is an interesting situation when it comes to the recruiting process. Because he failed 9th grade, he's currenty a senior athletically but only a junior academically. Therefore, he'll have another year of high school left to finish after this one.

"Willie's the best kept secret in the state of Florida," Pace head coach Joe Zaccheo told me. "He's a phenomenal football player and an incredibly talented athlete. I've been around a lot of great football players over the years but none any better than Willie."

Williams was playing defensive end for Zaccheo last season and had an outstanding season. In addition to having double-digit sack totals, he was also a terror on special teams, blocking eight punts and picking three of them up and returning them for touchdowns. Williams was clearly on another level last season in Dade County.

"We moved him from defensive end to middle linebacker so he could make more plays," Zaccheo said. "Plus, it'll be harder for teams to run away from Willie. His potential there is outstanding. It's scary to think of the type of player he's going to become once he learns how to play the position. He's still learning and he's still dominating."

In two games this season at linebacker, Williams has 28 tackles, two sacks, three caused fumbles, and has returned an interception 72 yards for a touchdown. Again, that's all in two games.

Zaccheo has been around and coached a lot of great athletes over the years, including current UM standout Maurice Sikes, but he says Williams is as good an athlete that he's coached.

"At 6-3 and 220, he ran a 4.42 on high grass at Auburn's camp," he said of the camp in which current UM wide receiver Senorice Moss ran a 4.42 at as well last summer. "I've tested my kids 10 times here and he's a 4.38 on average. He's just a freak I guess you could say."

Zaccheo talked about why Williams will be a recruiting prospect next year as opposed to this year.

"Willie had to turn his life around," he said. "He needed a change in life. He failed ninth grade but then started to change. He's done really well. Willie now carries a 3.8 grade point average. He's a very intelligent, personable, and motivated kid. He has a great attitude and really comes ready to play every day. He's a joy to coach. He even goes around making speeches to younger kids."

So what's next for the talented linebacker?

"He could go one of two ways," he said. "He could stay here [at Pace] for his senior year and pretty much help with the team and that sort of thing without playing or he can go to a prep school out of the area. That would be somewhere out of state."

With those options, what does that do to Williams as a prospect?

"Basically, he'll go through the recruiting process just like everyone else next year," he said. "It's just that this might be his last year here. He'll sign in February of [2004] and start college in August of that year. Then he'll have five years to play four just like everyone else."

Zaccheo said he's glad he switched Williams to linebacker.

"A lot of college coaches already know about him," he said. "Everyone that sees him likes him. How can you not? Someone might try to move him down [to defensive end] because of his size but this will be his third game at middle linebacker and he already is starting to get comfortable. If there's a better linebacker anywhere in the state of Florida right now, I'd like to see him."

A senior athletically, Williams will enter next spring as one of the top linebacker prospects in the entire country. If he were a senior this season, Williams would probably be considered one of the top 5-10 overall prospects in Florida. He's that good.

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