That is the best word I can use to describe James Williams.
As it relates to his journey to Miami.
The size and traits that he possesses.
The mentality that he brings to the Hurricanes defense.
The Miami Hurricanes amazing fortune of calling James Williams one of the family is, in the current age of Miami football, uncommon. James Williams is a player that has, since the mid 2000’s decided to play outside the confines of Miami Gardens. Top ten players with the pedigrees Williams owns are one in a million in their own right. Bringing that pedigree to the Hurricanes roster is one in a billion for far too long.
How We Got Here
The reason James Williams is a Hurricane may very well be coaching in the Great state of Utah. The relationship that former Safeties Coach and current Utah State Defensive Coordinator Ephraim Banda has shown to create with players is one that cannot be debated. In consecutive years, Banda was able to create bonds with players like Williams, Avantae Williams, Don Chaney and Gilbert Frierson to name a few. Many have mentioned it is the relationship that Banda formed over YEARS with each individual was a major factor in their eventual enrollment at Miami, as Williams mentions below.
What would you say the keys were to going to miami?— 365CANESFOOTBALL (@365canesinfo) December 19, 2020
James williams- relationships me and BANDA got a tight relationship... you can just listen to the rest. #yallsayfireanyone pic.twitter.com/RsySkoTDO1
That relationship, however, is not what created the foundation of James Williams the Miami native. Nor is it the reason Miami was so high for him from the get go. That belongs to his mother, the late Maria Gibson who worked at the University. The Maria Gibson who knew James would wear orange and green one day and who he wears a tattoo of on his forearm that reminds him of who he is and why he is a Hurricane. While a life after the passing of his mother is a story deserving of its own space outside of a player profile, it remains unchanged that growing up in Miami-Dade and Broward, the way he did, fostered a powerful bond between the Hurricane and his city. While “Put On For Your City” is a phrase made common through social media and overuse, Williams owns that as something he will likely dedicate his tenure at Miami to, along with the family that can’t be here with him.
With the uncommon case of James Williams, it took even more than the pull of Banda for the inaugural bearer of the “0” at the U (along with Romello Brinson). Something Williams does have in common with other players and recruits in South Florida is the allure of playing for the same school at the same position of a legend. Sean Taylor. Williams has not shied away from his adoration, as most young fans in South Florida, of the late Hurricanes legend. What is uncommon is the rare traits Williams possesses to physically pay respect to the memory of who Sean Taylor the athlete was. At 6’2 and a chiseled 200, Taylor was a rarity at the safety position.
James Williams is no different in that regard. While not the thickly built prospect as Taylor was, Williams owns physical traits unequally identify him as a unicorn. Standing at 6’5 and 218 as a prospect, some may scream at those to be pushed towards the defensive line, as measurements commonly seen from an edge rusher prospect. The primary word of this player profile however, is uncommon. Williams freakishly carries that frame in multiple ways, a true Swiss army knife. He carries it like a ball hawking safety, using long strides to cut through the secondary with exceptional speed, using his height to high point the ball and take any chance from receivers to challenge him in the air. The stature was used within the box displaying his strength, power and fluidity to work from sideline to sideline and get vertical into the backfield often.
When I try to identify players, whether past Hurricanes or not, it is nearly impossible to find more than a handful of players nearly as versatile. We all know Taylor was much like that, able to play just about every position on the field, the closest current day players are Kam Chancellor, formerly of Virginia Tech, and Isaiah Simmons, formerly of Clemson University. The best argument might be James being a combination of both, as he displays a great IQ for the secondary like Kam, while displaying the physical traits and athleticism more closely with Simmons. Regardless, when those are your closest comps, you are easily on the right side of the conversation. Our Cam, with a C, Underwood, did well to give his reasoning on why Williams is a prototype kind of player.
The Opportunity for James Williams this Fall is one that is seeming to grow with each headline. The ouster of Blake Baker and Ephraim Banda gives the defense essentially a new slate for all positions to truly be in open competition. While we know that players like Bubba Bolden and Nesta Silvera more than likely will not be affected by the changed, the rest of the defense assuredly, can. This is to the benefit of a player like Williams. While he missed the spring practices and scrimmages, he comes in with more talent and positional IQ than anyone at nearly every position he has played consistently at the high school level. Gurvan Hall, while a veteran and productive talent, was beginning to lose time and favor to Avantae Williams, whom was a favorite of both Manny Diaz and Travaris Robinson. Now with the departure of Avantae Williams’ from the program, there is opportunity for immediate and impactful playing time for James Williams leading into the season. Sam Brooks and Bradley Jennings, both have fought injury and ineffectiveness, at a linebacker position seeking playmaking and consistency.
Those that may contest that seniority will block a path here for Williams, history has shown that youth is served under Diaz (Couch, Flagg, Dunson, Harrison-Hunte just last season), especially in situation where Diaz has wanted to either make a point (see three freshmen starters at linebacker along with a slew of first-time starters in 2016) or a splash (see Trajan Bandy and Romeo Finley in 2017, Rousseau in 2018). As Manny Diaz enters a second stint coaching the defensive side of the ball with Miami, I expect surprises and shakeups along the defense to set a standard of “May the Best Man Play” on Greentree.
The idea of James Williams work ethic and leadership should also equip itself well with the defensive staff, who have, on multiple occasions, nurtured competition and rewarded the hardest working participants. Williams has shown an impressive humbleness and willingness to put in extra work as noted by players like Amari Carter. It is only a matter of time before that, combined with uncommon talent, leads to playing time for Williams.
Last but not least is the thirst for coaches like Manny Diaz to experiment in getting a “do it all” type like Williams on the field in any way possible. Williams can play a similar role to Michael Pinckney if inserted close to the line with what he can do with his IQ. He can provide similar rover ability to a JaQuan Johnson, which is high praise, but also a reality. We could see him in a role held by the aforementioned Carter in his freshman season, where he lined up at defensive tackle, nickel, linebacker and safety at different stages of the 2017 season. Williams can also run with tight ends and backs out of the striker position and show in coverage, using his length to negate tight ends and prevent running backs on the edge.
Ultimately, it will be conditioning that will be the determining factor in whether Williams see early playing time or not. While an excellent athlete, high school does not prepare you for the pace of a Rhett Lashlee offense, or the relentless practice nature Diaz relishes. If conditioning and continued humbleness abound for the former 5-star recruit, nothing is out of the realm of possibility for an uncommon human like James Williams.