The in-state class of 2016 product came back to Knoxville from nearby Hendersonville for Orange Carpet Day and logged his favorite visit with the Vols in the process. With a more intimate atmosphere and without the added pressure of performing on the field, Williams took Orange Carpet Day to sit down with the coaches and speak on a more personal level.
“It was my first visit back in a year and it was my best one yet ... I got to talk to coaches again. That was my goal. I’ve seen everything,” Williams told InsideTennessee. “Just the love they show me, it was my first time up here as a rising senior, so they all want you. They showed me so much love. It was great.”
Tennessee was the first school to offer the Scout 300 player and he has continued a constant dialogue with defensive backs coach Willie Martinez ever since. Martinez told Williams he would first start out as a corner in his scheme, but wants him to become a versatile weapon who can play corner, safety and nickel.
“He said he wants me to learn everything and that’s how I feel. I want to learn everything to be an all-around DB,” Williams said. “He said we’re going to start you off at corner, but you’re going to learn safety, you’re going to learn nickel. It was just a great experience. The philosophies fit right. I feel like it’s a great connection.”
The third-year defensive backs coach and his proposed multipurpose use of Williams has attracted the rising senior to Tennessee.
“When all those great incoming freshmen get to doing good, (Martinez) said he’s going to roll all the DBs around, which is really cool,” he said. “You can be a versatile DB. If you play DB, you’ve got to play every position. That’s what I do too. I really feel like that’s nice.”
Ranked as the No. 7 overall safety in the South Region, Williams is coveted by successful programs across the country, including Penn State, Auburn, Arizona State, and Alabama. While he wasn’t ready to name his favorite schools after his Tennessee visit, he did say he’s already working to plan an official visit back to Knoxville in December. He’ll also take an official to Penn State Nov. 21 when the Nittany Lions take on Michigan.
Williams, the No. 293 overall player in the 2016 class, told IT he wants to narrow down his offer list to five schools by the end of the summer and that date is fast approaching. Tennessee figures to be a major contender to make his final cut.
“I’ve been here over the years. I’ve been visiting a lot of other schools, taking [my] due diligence with other schools. I just wanted to see the coaches again. I’ve been here six, seven times,” Williams said. “They just show me so much love all the time. I had to get up for a visit one more time. It’s just a great place.”
Until he does make his choice, Williams will continue evaluating the programs at the forefront of his mind and come to a decision that best fits his personality and playing style.
“You’ve just got to pick the right school. It’s going to all come down to a gut feeling basically. My mom’s not in it or anything. She doesn’t even want to take visits with me,” Williams said.
“She just said it’s going to come down to you and it’s going to come down to a gut feeling. She said I can go anywhere in the country, so that’s a good thing.”
JoeJuan Williams at The Opening
Managing editor Danny Parker contributed to this story.