Next DeVonta Smith commits to 'Bama

Saralands Ryan Williams (1) scores his second touchdown of the night against Clay-Chalkville during the AHSAA Class 6A football state championship game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Friday December 8, 2023.
Saralands Ryan Williams (1) scores his second touchdown of the night against Clay-Chalkville during the AHSAA Class 6A football state championship game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Friday December 8, 2023.

Ryan Williams is a six-foot, 165-pound, sixteen-year old. But Wednesday he became a big man on campus in Tuscaloosa, home for the University of Alabama. 


When Williams re-committed to 'Bama Wednesday, it was a big deal for new head coach Kalen DeBoer, the replacement for CFB icon Nick Saban, whose retirement triggered an exodus of players and recruits. At last count there were 10 defectors, including top rated 2024 prep quarterback Julian Sayin and safety Caleb Downs, who led the team in tackles as true freshman in 2023. Both jumped to Ohio State.


DeBoer, hired from U. of Washington at great expense, was under pressure to stop the hemorrhaging. So Williams' decision to stay with Alabama did that, for now at least.


Ryan's conspicuous talent belies his size and age. He was perhaps the most prolific prep receiver in the country over the last two seasons. As a sophomore in 2022, Williams commanded the attention of scouts with 2,647 all-purpose yards and 39 touchdowns. That included 88 catches for 1,641 yard with 24 touchdowns and 57 carries for 700 yards and 15 scores.


In his final two seasons at Saraland (Ala.) high school, Williams accounted for more than 4,600 all-purpose yards and 65 touchdowns.


He was committed to the Crimson Tide for nearly a year before reopening his recruitment after Saban announced his retirement Jan. 10.  He had been a highly rated prospect for 2025 but announced in December he would reclassify into the 2024 class. Heck, he already qualified for a driver’s license, so why not?


Now, before suiting up as a college freshman, Williams is already projected as an eventual first-round NFL draft pick. Williams is often compared to former Tide receiver DeVonta Smith who, at only 6-0, 185, caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns while winning the 2020 Heisman Trophy.


Williams' track-and-field performance reflects his football prolifics, or vice versa. As a sophomore, Williams’ 100-meter time was under 10.5 seconds and his explosiveness was evident with a high jump of 6-foot-8 inches.


He took an unofficial visit to Alabama last week and met with DeBoer for the first time. He spent time with some of the staff and his good friend and early enrollee Jaylen Mbakwe (Hall of Football No. 18 overall, No. 2 CB), from Clay-Chalkville in Pinson, Ala. 


Williams returned for his official visit a few days later during the weekend. Williams told that he had a great time and believes it’s the right coaching staff in Tuscaloosa.


“[DeBoer is] the best fit for Alabama, especially with the system that he's bringing," Williams told "I'm not sure there could have been much of a better fit. At the receiver position, it'd be a good fit.


"[DeBoer stood out with] just how down to earth he is and how calm and comfortable he is with himself," Williams added. "What you see is exactly what you get with him. I definitely had a strong impression of him. He was just telling me how I could fit into the offense and how easy it would be just carrying over what I do now to the next level."


Williams is the fourth commitment of the new DeBoer era, joining three former Washington players: quarterback Austin Mack, center Parker Brailsford and receiver Germie Bernard.


This is a monumental early win on the recruiting trail for DeBoer and his staff. The biggest priority when he took over the Crimson Tide program was retaining the current roster. Securing a commitment from Williams, widely recognized as one of the top high school talents as a prep sophomore, priority No. 2.


Williams canceled his Jan. 27 official visit to Texas on Jan. 23, which was two days after his trip to Tuscaloosa. It is unknown, but doubtful, he still plans to take his Auburn official visit.


Per NCAA rules, Williams cannot officially sign until Feb. 7. He plans to make a formal announcement at Saraland High on Feb. 9 --  his 17th birthday.


Nice present for Alabama and coach DeBoar.


As of January 22, this is what Alabama's 2024 commit list looks like, including Hall of Football ratings for overall and position.

Rnk   Player           Pos  Ht  Wt    Pos Rnk     School  Town  Committed

7     Ryan Williams WR 6-0 165.0 3 Saraland Saraland, AL Alabama

18   Jaylen Mbakwe CB 5-11 170.0 2 Clay-Chalkville Pinson, AL Alabama

47   Caleb Odom TE 6-4 220.0 2 Carrollton Carrollton, GA Alabama

48   Zay Mincey CB 6-2 185.0 6 Mainland Daytona Beach, FL Alabama

54   Zabien Brown CB 6-0.5 180.0 7 Mater Dei Santa Ana, CA Alabama

73  Kevin Riley RB 6-0 192.0 3 Tuscaloosa County Northport, AL Alabama

75  Jeremiah Beaman DL 6-3.5 260.0 10 Parker Birmingham, AL Alabama

79  Casey Poe IOL 6-4.5 290.0 1 Lindale Lindale, TX Alabama

110  Peyton Woodyard S 6-0.5 200.0 7 St. John Bosco Bellflower, CA Alabama

121  Amari Jefferson WR 5-11.5 200.0 23 Baylor School Chattanooga, TN Alabama

157  Jameer Grimsley CB 6-2 185.0 22 Tampa Catholic Tampa, FL Alabama

178  Sterling Dixon LB 6-1.5 205.0 13 Spanish Fort Mobile, AL Alabama

188  Daniel Hill RB 6-0 235.0 14 Meridian Meridian, MS Alabama

194  Jayshawn Ross EDGE 6-3 220.0 21 Liberty North Kansas City, MO Alabama

232  Aeryn Hampton ATH 5-10 175.0 9 Daingerfield Daingerfield, TX Alabama

268  Red Morgan S 5-11 175.0 21 Central Phenix City, AL Alabama

272  William Sanders IOL 6-3 295.0 18 Brookwood Sch Brookwood, AL Alabama

311  Rico Scott WR 6-0.5 185.0 51 Bishop McDevitt Harrisburg, PA Alabama

327  Cayden Jones LB 6-4 225.0 27 Christ School Arden, NC Alabama

351  Steve Mboumoua DL 6-3 275.0 35 Notre Dame Saint-Augustin de Desmaures, QC Alabama

411  Isaia Faga DL 6-2 285.0 42 Central Phenix City, AL Alabama

455  Justin Okoronkwo LB 6-3 225.0 42 Germany Munich, BY Alabama

587  Joseph Ionata IOL 6-4.5 295.0 52 Calvary Christian Clearwater, FL Alabama

722  Dre Kirkpatrick Jr. S 5-10.5 195.0 74 Gadsden City Gadsden, AL Alabama

737  Quinton Reese LB 5-11.5 210.0 66 Ramsay Birmingham, AL Alabama

823  Jay Lindsey TE 6-4 235.0 46 Patrician Academy Butler, AL Alabama



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