Clemson has yet to pull the trigger on offering any wide receiver prospects in the 2022 class. But among those squarely in the mix for an offer from the Tigers is Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei four-star CJ Williams, one of the nation’s most highly regarded rising junior wideouts.
Williams (6-2, 193), who lists more than 40 total offers, is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 5 prospect from California, No. 4 receiver nationally and No. 31 overall prospect in the next recruiting cycle. His offer sheet features Southern Cal, Washington, Stanford, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Texas, Texas A&M and Notre Dame, among other major programs.
The Clemson Insider caught up with Williams, who has seen his recruitment ramp up during the pandemic and expects it to heat up even more in a couple of months when college coaches can start actively reaching out to and recruiting athletes in their junior year of high school.
“I feel like a lot of coaches, they have a lot more time on their hands to focus on recruiting, so recruiting has for sure increased more as time has gone on, and getting closer to Sept. 1, I’ll bet you it’ll increase more,” Williams said. “So, I’m looking forward to all that.”
Right now, coaches cannot initiate contact with 2022 recruits due to NCAA rules, though coaches can answer the phone and communicate with prospects if they call.
Under these restrictions, Williams has been able to speak and begin building a relationship with Clemson receivers coach Tyler Grisham.
Like Grisham, Williams grew up in Alabama. He was born in Tuscaloosa before moving to California when he was a young child.
“They haven’t offered any quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, but he said he likes my game, said he likes my character,” Williams said. “He said it’s very rare that they come out to California and get wide receivers, but you can see it in Beaux Collins and dudes like that. So, he’s impressed me I would say, and I’m very impressed with him. He was born in Alabama, very similar to me. He lived out there, I lived out there, so we have that connection.”
Williams has a good relationship with the aforementioned Collins, a class of 2021 Clemson receiver commit, as both of them train at STARS, a sports training and rehabilitation service located in Anaheim, Calif.
Clemson freshman quarterback DJ Uiagalelei has also trained at STARS, and Williams actually had the chance to catch passes from Uiagalelei last Friday when Uiagalelei was back home for the fourth of July weekend.
Williams admires Collins and Uiagalelei — two former St. John Bosco (Bellfower, Calif.) teammates — both as people and as players.
“They’re both great people, giving their life to God, and I just respect their game although they’re my rivals as far as St. John Bosco, Mater Dei,” Williams said. “But I respect their game on a whole different level.”
Williams has gotten a taste of what Dabo Swinney’s program has to offer by taking a virtual visit, with no actual on-campus visits permitted right now due to COVID-19, but he wants to check out Clemson in person at some point after the NCAA dead period is over.
“From what I’ve seen the football facilities are top-notch,” he said. “I want to meet Coach Grisham face to face, Coach Swinney, and continue to build that relationship and see if that’s somewhere I can find myself two years from now and hopefully playing three years of football at.”
Of the many schools that have offered Williams, he named several that he has an especially good relationship with early in the process.
“Obviously you have USC who’s in my backyard, so it’s pretty easy for them to recruit me, and then my wide receivers coach at Mater Dei is great friends with Junior Adams (receivers coach) from Washington. I know that’s a great Pac-12 program,” Williams said. “You’ve got the wide receivers coach from Wisconsin (Alvis Whitted), who I have a great relationship with. He’s a great dude and really focuses on the little stuff, which I appreciate. Ohio State has a great recruiting staff — (receivers coach) Brian Hartline is just a dude that I would love to play for one day and I can see as a very good asset as one of my coaches, knowing a lot of stuff and playing in the league.”
Williams wants to ideally be committed to his school of choice before his senior season begins in 2021, though his decision timeline is fluid because of the uncertainty surrounding recruiting amidst the pandemic.
“Prior to the corona and the COVID-19 situation, I had a bunch of visits planned out to schools in the Midwest,” he said. “I was planning to go to Texas, Texas A&M, and I was supposed to go up to Washington, schools like that, Stanford. I was planning to make a decision around this time next year after my junior season prior to senior season so I can just play out and focus on life in general because I’m only a kid once.
“So, being able to do my senior year and just be a kid and do that before I go into the responsibility of college would be an ideal situation. But you never know how it’s going to go right now. I may have to wait it out, I may have to decide earlier than I may have wanted. So, it’s up in the air.”
Williams is high on Clemson and expects the Tigers to come through with an offer in due time. If the offer comes to fruition, Williams would figure to strongly consider what is known by many as “Wide Receiver U.”
“I think it’s a very high-level school,” he said. “Coach Swinney has my respect, my parents’ respect. Obviously, you have a college town — it’s just a great environment for football over there. They’re really on top of the game as far as wide receivers right now.”
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