Don’t Sleep on Jameson Williams
There's a 6'2"-188lb wide receiver who wore No. 6 last year making waves at Alabama heading into the 2021 season. No, it's not DeVonta Smith. He's two inches shorter, about 10lbs lighter and suiting up for the Philadelphia Eagles.
No, this is Jameson Williams. He'll be wearing No. 1 for the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2021 and fans should be sure to keep an eye on him when he's on the field.
"I think Jamo is a really great addition to our offense. I think he's going to add a lot of speed to our offense, and I think he's going to help make us more dynamic."
-Nick Saban, SEC Media Days
Recruiting fanatics may remember Williams. As a 4-star prospect in the 2019 class from St. Louis, Williams chose the Ohio State Buckeyes over the Alabama Crimson Tide. The decision didn't truly pay off since Williams only caught 15 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns in two years with the 'Scarlett and Grey.' In turn, Williams wasn't put on the same pedestal as fellow transfer Henry To'o To'o, who was immediately thought of as a starter.
Williams, of course, plays in a much more crowded position group. John Metchie and Slade Bolden are already starters, having been the names that stepped up in 2020 when Jaylen Waddle went down with an injury. Javon Baker and Traeshon Holden are Tide veterans who finally have an opportunity to contribute with the four O.G. Ryde Outs now in the NFL. Freshmen Agiye Hall, Ja'Corey Brooks, Christian Leary and JoJo Earle are wildly special talents fans can't wait to see on the field.
It's easy to see why "Jamo" has been overlooked in the receiving corps. After all, he played against Alabama earlier this year. He even tackled DeVonta Smith.
But what makes Williams special enough to do what he couldn't at Ohio State and become a permanent starter? Well, look no further than his stats. Sure, having just 15 catches is alarming in two seasons, but look at the yardage for the big picture. He's averaging 17.7 yards per reception. His three touchdown catches were 61-yards, 38-yards and 45-yards. He's a deep threat with smooth athleticism.
While it's no secret that Leary and Earle are blazing speedsters and Metchie was useful in the deep game in 2020, there's value in being a guy that can just stride past the defense for six. Fans loved it when Henry Ruggs III and Waddle did it, and Williams is no different.
The good thing about Williams's skill set, though, is that his game, like Waddle and Ruggs, isn't as dull as simply "run fast." No, Williams has nuance in his route running down the field, utilizing his whole body with head fakes, hip movement, dead legs and calculated feet, to put opposing defensive backs on skates. With every defensive coordinator in the country fearing his speed, he's granted an assist on hitch routes for easy first downs, but even those routes are crisp and tight, giving him the chance to outwit would-be tacklers.
Body control is such an important trait for a wide receiver and Williams is a master in this regard. He's hyper-aware of the sideline, using it to his advantage and making toe-tapping receptions look routine. The control pairs in with his ball-tracking down the field. He doesn't overthink his next move, he's smooth through every process.
It would be nice to see more reps like the Indiana example above, as well as more plays over the middle in general. That's where the worrisome analysis can creep in; the fear of the unknown. That said, Alabama has two guys, Metchie and Bolden, who are proven in these roles and will open up opportunities for Williams the same way he can for them vertically.
Head coach Nick Saban said as much himself at SEC Media Days, noting that Williams brings diversity and experience in a space Alabama lacked.
"We felt like we needed someone who has the juice and speed at receiver to compliment the players that we do have and we needed some experience after losing four first-round draft picks in the last two years at that position," Saban said.
It's worth noting that during the media viewing period of Friday's practice, Williams took group reps with Traeshon Holden during position drills behind Metchie and Baker. He's already in a position to take a serious role with the Crimson Tide and hold on to it.
As a third-year player with his elite skills, he should be expected to.
In October of last year, I warned our readers and listeners not to sleep on DeVonta Smith after Waddle's injury. I'm here to tell you again that the same sentiment holds true for Jameson Williams. Don't overlook him, don't discount his abilities because of his stats. It was likewise foolish for the ones who cast Smith aside despite his stats because of his size.
They watched Smith become the first Heisman trophy winner as a wide receiver in almost 30 years.
If you sleep on Williams then you'll enjoy the same view as the burnt defensive backs left in his wake this year, watching as the crimson No. 1 sprints into the distance for another deep touchdown.