In one of the biggest national surprises of the day, the Miami Hurricanes inked Avantae Williams, who is ranked as the #2 safety according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. The DeLand, FL product spurned the perceived “favorite” Florida Gators in favor of Miami around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.
ESPN's No. 1 safety in America is headed to Coral Gables.— Canes Football (@CanesFootball) February 5, 2020
Welcome to the U, @SlowDownBoy7! #Category20 pic.twitter.com/MnEDwp0q4b
It was a massive pickup for the Hurricanes, who’s recruiting class shot up six spots in the 247Sports team rankings, ahead of traditional powers Penn State, Notre Dame and Michigan.
Landing his final commitment was no easy feat. Williams once committed to Miami back in February 2017 and ended that commitment over a year later in May 2018 — still a year and a half away from the day he would sign his letter of intent.
He went on to commit to Mario Cristobal and the Oregon Ducks seven months later in December 2018 and stayed committed for almost a year before opening his recruitment back up before the early signing period this past December.
But throughout the process, the Hurricanes staff never gave up on the 5’11 safety. Despite pushes from Georgia and Florida, the Hurricanes eventually won out because of a strong four-year relationship between Williams and safety’s coach Ephraim Banda.
@SlowDownBoy7 pic.twitter.com/lXo7AQMbfF— Ephraim Banda (@CoachBanda) February 5, 2020
Manny Diaz spoke about Williams today during a National Signing Day press conference that featured many of the Hurricanes new additions — Rhett Lashlee, Ed Reed, D’Eriq King, Quincy Roche and Jose Borregales.
“I think we’ve known Avantae since the summer coming out of 8th grade,” Diaz said. “This is a four year relationship with Coach Banda who’s been the point-man on that for four years. He was committed to us at one point, you know, too early to be committed in reality and went all kinds of different ways. It’s one of those guys and, again, I got to give all the credit to Coach Banda, we never gave up on him.”
During his final visit in Coral Gables, Diaz got the sense that Williams was a Cane. Not necessarily that he was going to sign the papers and make it so, but rather that Williams knew he wanted to be one.
Apparently, Diaz’s inclination was correct as the Hurricanes moved the Under Armor All-American enough to cancel a visit to Georgia and hold off the Gators despite them receiving his last official visit.
“There was just a feeling that Avantae was a ‘Cane at heart. In recruiting you just get to know these guys. There’s just something about him that they just fit in here, you know, and just there’s a feeling and we talked a lot about that when he came on his visit a couple weeks ago.”
But the Hurricanes didn't actually “know” until the rest of did — when he made his announcement at DeLand High School and “faxed” in his paper work.
The question of how Miami was able to pull this off coming off a 6-7 season is a legitimate one. Diaz points to an already improved culture that is clear to not only Williams, but the rest of the recruits and transfers that have made their way to Coral Gables since the 2019 season came to a brutal close.
“We’re trying to improve our issues in terms of our culture — starting in the locker room, starting in the weight room. I think those things have happened and I think that’s why you are attracting good people,” Diaz said. “Good people want to come for good reasons and I think those reasons are real. They exist on our campus. And all of that is coming full circle today with Avantae signing with us.”
Ed Reed, the Hurricanes new Chief of Staff, coached Williams during the Under Armor All-America game in December and had this to say about the nations 44th ranked player:
“It was fun, man, working with him. I feel like the kid is athletic — definitely an athlete. Definitely showed heart, but I also saw that he’s young and needs guidance and needs help with his technique and stuff like that. But definitely happy that he chose The U.”