Gift of Grab

Big receivers with good speed and great hands aren't plentiful in the national prospect pool which explains why DeMario Williams is making a significant splash on the regional recruiting scene.

At 6-foot-31/2, 185-pounds with 4.58 speed, Williams has the next level ingredients to become a productive pass catcher. Moreover he catches virtually everything he can reach and is an accomplished aerial acrobatic, who wins more jump balls than Yao Ming.

As a junior at Columbia Central High School in Columbia (Tenn.), Williams played in seven games and came up with 27 catches for 445 yards and seven touchdowns to earn All-Region and All Mid-State honors. During his sophomore season of 2005, he led the Lions with 33 receptions for 571 and six TDs.

An outstanding athlete, who plays tennis in his spare time, Williams was also Columbia's starting point guard the last two seasons. He averaged 18 points per game last season and was a finalist for the Mr. Basketball award. in Tennessee. He's a prospect in both sports but will only play one.

"I'm undecided between football and basketball in college," he told Inside Tennessee Thursday. "I know I won't try to play both sports."

It may be hard for Williams to walk away from the potential he has to develop into a go-to receiver, or to ignore offers already on the table from Ole Miss and South Carolina. In fact he's drawing interest from at least half the schools in the SEC and that's before his plan heavy duty football camp schedule.

"I'm going to the Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama and the Vanderbilt camps," he said. "Everybody is looking at me as a receiver. I play defensive back (safety) but only when the other team has a really good receiver."

Williams has the ability to concentrate on the ball to the exclusion of all else, and he has a knack for gaining separation at the end of a route with a nice burst to the ball. He's particularly effective on deep passes and he catches the ball in traffic. While he lacks the blazing speed so common to Tennessee receivers, he has the sure hands that sometimes seem in short supply. That alone makes him a prospect of interest, especially when you calculate the cost of defending against it.

"If I had to model myself after anybody I'd probably say Randy Moss," Williams replied when asked to describe himself as a receiver. "He's tall and lanky. He can go up and get balls and catch over anybody. I believe catching the ball is my strong point. My focus and the way I watch the ball in and catch it."

DeMario Williams grew up in Georgia before moving to Columbia in the seventh grade, but he wasn't a Bulldogs or Yellowjackets fan.

"I kind of grew up in Georgia," he said, "and the school I ended up following a lot was Florida State because my uncle was a big fan."

Five years in Big Orange Country has had its impact and he admits to hearing a lot of good things about the Vols from folks in Columbia. He has good rapport with UT assistant Kurt Roper, and is looking forward to working with receivers coach Trooper Taylor at senior camp this month. Additionally, he has received reassurance from Tennessee's head man that the Vols are interested.

"When coach Fulmer was at my school he was talking to me about the things he liked about me," Williams said. "He liked that I was a playmaker and Tennessee would really love that. He told me they were very interested and he told me to keep Tennessee on my mind."

That shouldn't be difficult for someone living in the heart of the Volunteer State.

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