- Bob Przybylo, Reporter, RecruitingNation
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It was all set. Even before the 2011 season started, all the pieces were being put in place for junior college running back Damien Williams (Yuma, Ariz./Arizona Western CC) to suit up for Arizona State in 2012.
Williams was going to be a Sun Devil once before, but he didn't meet the ACT test score requirement coming out of high school in San Diego.
It was disappointing, he said, but the ASU coaches didn't get discouraged. It was the then-ASU coaching staff that recommended Williams attend Arizona Western.
"Everything was about getting to Arizona State," Williams said. "I knew that. They knew that. We were good with everything."
But what's that said about the best plans? Well, this one went awry. But Williams had nothing to do with this plan not turning out the way it was envisioned.
When Arizona State elected to not keep Dennis Erickson as head coach, the recruiting game opened up once again for Williams, who is 6-foot and 210 pounds.
And when OU running backs coach Cale Gundy heard Williams was back in play, he wasted no time in trying to get involved.
"As soon as I got that call, I knew OU was going to be there until the end," said Williams, who spoke to SoonerNation before enrolling at OU in June. "You have to take that call. You don't pass on OU without hearing what they have to say."
Williams took official visits to OU, Texas Tech, ASU and Arkansas before deciding to sign with the Sooners.
Arizona Western coach Tom Minnick said Williams was the best junior college player in the nation in 2011. Minnick knows he might not be 100 percent objective on that front, but he believes Williams will make an immediate impact with OU.
Williams was officially cleared by the NCAA in late June so he is good to go for the season.
"He has never been in trouble. He loves to joke around and have fun. He's just a great kid. How much time do you have? Because I could keep going," Minnick said. "He is going to make a big impact at OU. I have no doubts about that."
The scary part about Williams is he admits he doesn't fully understand the position. He said he didn't start to play running back until his junior season in high school.
There are three running backs he has watched to help learn the game more: Jim Brown, Adrian Peterson and Demarco Murray. With Peterson and Murray both being former OU greats, was there really any doubt Williams wouldn't end up in Norman?
Williams takes a lot of pride in his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Minnick said Williams wasn't just the best runner on the team, but he was probably the best receiver, too.
"I believe you have to be a complete back," Williams said. "I can catch well, and I think I have great vision. I know I have a lot to learn, but Coach Gundy is a great person to learn it from."
Williams said Gundy visited him in the spring, and if he had any doubts about OU, they were 100 percent gone following his official visit. He said he enjoyed Gundy getting to know him as a person instead of just a football player.
Williams is just looking for an opportunity. He knows he will get it. From watching fellow West Coast products get their shot with the Sooners, Williams knows that if he works hard, he'll have his chance.
The "Cali trio" has been an important tool in OU's recruiting the last 12 months. Running back Brennan Clay, wide receiver Kenny Stills and safety Tony Jefferson are often asked to host recruits. They were given the job again when Williams came to Norman in January.
"It definitely helped because I saw how good those guys were doing," Williams said. "Coming from the same area, I know I can talk to those guys about anything. I've been talking to Tony for a long time now, and I'm just excited to get to the campus and show what I can do."
Oklahoma Sooners running back Damien Williams was all set to attend Arizona State before a coaching change made him re-evaluate his situation.