Williams' SPARQ Rating sparks interest after combine performance
Hereford's Willie Williams looks like a football player. The junior has a chiseled upper body, benches 315 pounds and squats over 417 pounds, but it was his performance at the Nike Baltimore Combine that has commanded the most attention in recent weeks.
The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Williams posted the third best SPARQ Rating at the combine, running a 4.63 40-yard dash and a 4.07 shuttle and posting a 36-inch vertical jump and a 33-foot kneeling power ball toss. Combined, those numbers yielded a 107.64 SPARQ Rating and increased attention from colleges. (The SPARQ Rating combines scores from the 40-yard dash, shuttle, vertical jump and kneeling power ball and adjusts for height and weight.)
"If it wasn't for the mail coming to my attention with [Williams'] name on it, I wouldn't have any mail at all," Hereford head coach Steve Turnbaugh said jokingly of Williams' increasing college interest. "I might was well take my name off the mailbox at school and put his name on it. He gets 10 to 15 [letters] a day."
Recruiting interest, Williams said, "picked up a lot more. I get mail more every day. I just got a letter from Boston College the other day. I've been getting invited to other combines, and schools are asking for my transcripts and SATs."
Williams got his first taste of varsity football late in his sophomore season when the Bulls were making a run to the 2007 Class 3A state championship game. With future Division I running backs Lonnie Liggins and Nick DePaola ahead of him on the depth chart, Williams did not see much playing time, but that changed last year.
It was seeing Liggins play and receive a scholarship offer to Army that sparked Williams' belief that he, too, could play in college.
"I saw [Liggins] and Ron Rose get a full ride, and I said I need to catch up and start doing something," Williams said.
Turnbaugh's wing-T offense uses multiple running backs, and Williams, along with DePaola and Hasani Cromwell and Neil Deluca helped Hereford rush for more than 2,000 yards last season.
Williams amassed more than 600 total yards last season and is expected to be one of the main backs when he returns for his senior year.
"He's extremely quick. He's powerful and he's a downhill runner. He suits the position that he plays for us perfect. Now it's just a matter of him believing in what he's capable of doing. If he buys into that, he's going to be a monster," Turnbaugh said. "He can be as good as he wants to be. His biggest competition is what stares back at him in the mirror. He has all the physical tools. Now it's just a matter of him knowing and believing how good he could be."
As good as Williams appears to be on offense, it is at linebacker that Turnbaugh thinks he can make the biggest impact.
"As powerful and explosive as he is, if he's an outside linebacker coming off the edge, I don't know who can block him," Turnbaugh said.
Williams spent his spring break taking unofficial visits to colleges -- going to James Madison, Wake Forest, Virginia, Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State. The junior has also attended Towson's spring practice. Williams has already received his invitation to the Penn State Nike Camp on May 2.
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"It was the whole week between Monday and Friday," Williams said. "I liked all of them, but my favorite one was Virginia. I liked the athletes, the facility and the coaches that I met."
Turnbaugh said he has never had an athlete go into his senior season with college offers already in hand. Even former three-time All-State center Joe Akers did not receive offers until later in his senior season.
"Once they see my transcripts and I get evaluated at these one-day camps, I'm hoping I'll get something," Williams said. "I'm just waiting for it -- waiting for the first one."
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Mike Loveday covers high school sports for ESPNRISE.com. Mike can be reached at Michael.Loveday@espn.com
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