Rounding out the current blue chip commits in the 2023 UW Recruiting Profile series is Rashid Williams out of Pittsburg HS, CA. Check out the rest of our Recruiting Notebook Series where we’ve run through the entire OL class and the rest of the blue chips that we’ve received verbal commitments from, such as Vincent Holmes, Anthony James II, and Curley Reed.
In a funny coincidence, we’re rounding out our blue chip recruiting breakdowns with the very first blue chip commit of the DeBoer era. In case you didn’t already know, Rashid Williams is a coveted WR prospect, and one-time Top 100 recruit, out of Pittsburg HS. After an injury that sidelined him for his sophomore season, Williams came roaring back to the tune of 55 receptions for 753 yards and 11 TDs during his junior season, as he asserted himself as the favorite WR of top QB prospect Jaden Rashada, re-establishing himself as a top WR prospect in the West. His commitment in May didn’t just get the ball rolling in what has been a very strong recruiting cycle for the new staff, but his addition to the class also reloads the WR room with the type of talent that over the last few years has elevated the position to one of our most talented. It is clear that DeBoer, Grubb, Morgan, and Shephard won’t let our talent advantage slip.
Tape & On-Field Performance
As I mentioned in past recruiting breakdowns, when I watch some of these blue chip prospects I am often watching guys who dominate the HS competition with their natural talent and some basic technique. Usually that shows up in the trenches more than the skill positions, but even then, its not uncommon to see big body WRs simply out jump DBs on 50/50 balls or speedsters run past flat footed-safeties. Neither of those types of plays take any real skill, and while you can’t teach speed or size, there is also only so much you can expect out of a young player that doesn’t actually know how to play the position.
When I turned on the tape, I was surprised because of exactly that. Williams knows how to play WR. He gets the nuance of the position, the objective of each one of his assignments, and he employs various techniques to win on every rep. He plays the position as if he didn’t have his God-given talent advantage, and he is that much better because he is so talented. He doesn’t just rely on blazing speed to run past guys, but instead he skillfully works his releases, gets his positioning on defenders, then accelerates at the perfect time to gain separation. His breaks are crisp, he leans on his speed when necessary, and he knows how and when to run into soft spots in coverage.
Just look at the very first play of the hudl clip above. Williams is the #3 WR in a trips formation and the offense is running a basic Four Verts concept. As the #3 WR, his landmarks for his route are “inside the outside, and over the middle”. What that means is he has to get inside the OLB to prevent him from widening out too quickly and cutting off the passing window the the #2 WR, and then he has to bend his route back vertically to get over the MLB to maximize spacing with the boundary side WR. Sometimes this will look like a crossing route and sometimes it’ll look more vertical depending on the coverage. On the play, Williams attacks the OLB head on to hit his land mark ASAP. However, he also recognizes the boundary safety rotating hard to the field, so he rips through the contact and immediately gets vertical to attack the far seam before the MLB can close the passing window. His recognition of the safety rotation and understanding of spacing within the passing concept allowed him to modify his route mid-play to maximize his separation. From there, he was able to show off his ball skills by making one of the toughest catches in football; the over the line drive seam ball from directly behind you. Williams tracked the pass, timed his jump, caught the pass with his hands, and took off for the TD.
Aside from his advanced football IQ (particularly how offenses attack coverages), his ball skills are his most advanced skills. I’ve discussed ball skills already when breaking down Vincent Holmes as a DB prospect, but for a WR, the things I look for are how he catches the ball, how he tracks the ball, if he’s trusted to make receptions in traffic or through contact, and if he’s comfortable catching the ball from all angles. Williams checks all of those boxes.
Just because a receiver is big and fast doesn’t mean he can play on the perimeter, and just because he is small and shifty doesn’t mean he’s a lock in the slot. The different WR alignments usually have different route trees (depending on the offense), and those routes take time to master. Having worked from both the perimeter and the slot, Williams was able to work on the tough catches on a variety of in and out-breaking routes that make him an inside/outside threat. His bread and butter right now are seams, slot fades, slants, and 12-yard digs and outs, and red zone corner routes. That’ll get him pretty far at the college level, but he’s also got upside as a screen threat and on jet sweeps that are important concepts within Grubb’s offense.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Williams is a capable and willing blocker. There is a solid 8 plays on his highlight reel that are just of him blocking. Williams won’t make any All-Conference teams as a blocker, but to coaches, blocking is a sign of pure effort and is a major aspect of what they are looking for when determining playing time. I always told my players that the first 5 yards of a run play were on the OL, the next 5 were on the RB, and the rest were on the WRs. Given our offense’s shift back towards 11 personnel and spread sets on standard rushing downs, it’ll fall on WRs like Williams to help us get those elusive big runs that have been lacking for the last few years.
Fit, Position & Projection
With Jalen McMillan, Rome Odunze, Taj Davis, and Giles Jackson all having the extended COVID eligibility, at least two or three of them will still likely be around when Williams arrives on campus in 2023. Plus, with the pipeline stocked with promising young talent like Ja’lynn Polk, Junior Alexander, Jabez Tinae, and Denzel Boston, I’m not expecting many early opportunities for Williams to immediately break into the rotation. Of course, with his inside/outside potential, there’s always a shot that Shephard plugs him into the position that is the shallowest whenever he gets to campus and he immediately flourishes.
Like Odunze, Williams’ floor is as a high-end vertical target in the slot with upside as a perimeter threat, and given his HS experience working out of the slot, I think that that’ll be his best early fit. I’ll throw in the caveat that I’m not entirely sure what formational packages Grubb will favor once we get through fall camp, but at Fresno, Grubb’s 11 personnel packages tended to keep the TE attached to the formation or flexed out into the slot. He may deem Culp a dynamic enough talent to flex out wide, and Odunze may have stepped up as a perimeter WR, but if neither prove to be true, that’ll leave only one slot position open for Odunze, Davis, and Tinae to battle for if all three are still around when Williams is fighting for a spot in the rotation.
Rashid Williams is a dynamic high-floor WR prospect that I’m glad Coach Shephard brought on-board early. He has the polish of a seasoned vet, the skill set to plug gaps in any number of WR spots, and the talent to keep us our WR room at the top of the conference. I’ll be keeping an eye on his development progresses into his senior year, and especially how his usage expands with a top flight QB at the reins of his HS offense. If he can expand his skill set to be as dynamic of a perimeter threat as he is in the slot, opposing defenses will be losing sleep over his explosive potential on Montlake.