Ronald Williams Jr. a potential impact player in Alabama football's secondary
Ronald Williams Jr. wasn’t a full-time starter as a redshirt freshmen at Hutchinson Community College, but he played enough to attract FBS schools. He had the credits to graduate and opportunities to jump to a four-year school.
He told Andrew Krause – at the time Hutchinson Community College’s defensive backs coach, now its tight ends coach, special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator – he wanted to return. He thought he could be better.
Williams then developed into the prospect that drew Alabama’s attention, and could start for UA right away.
Williams is one player in UA’s highly-contested battle for playing time at the star and money positions in the secondary. He never would have reached that level if not for his final season at Hutchinson.
“That spring is when he became who he is now,” Krause said. “He became a student of the game, a complete and total technician. He looked to perfect every movement and every aspect of what we did here.”
Williams was recruited as a safety out of Ferriday High School in Louisiana and started as a scout-teamer there, until a run of injuries left the roster thin at wide receiver; Williams converted there and he developed to the point that he had a rotational role as a receiver. When the injuries subsided and Williams added weight in the offseason, he was sent back to secondary, this time as a corner.
Physically, the transition to corner was not a burden; athleticism has never been something Williams lacked. It was elevating his mental game that made a difference.
“The intricacies of playing the position from an intellectual standpoint,” Krause said. “Not just going out there and reacting, but understanding what is happening and what’s going to happen. He started to see it, you could tell. He understood the game more. He understood what receivers were trying to do to him; he understood offense.”
In doing so, Williams didn’t make himself quicker physically, he made himself quicker mentally, which enabled him to play quicker. He also just so happened to be mastering a matchup quarters scheme, one that Alabama uses as well. Krause thinks that added to UA’s interest in Williams.
Krause can see how Williams fits UA’s off-field culture, too.
“We get some immaturity here; in junior college football, you don’t have any upperclassmen. It’s really just a circus sometimes,” Krause said. “There was no drama with him. His practice shirt never came up missing, he never forgot his cleats. The stuff you hold kids’ hand on, he never needed. He’s in every meeting, eye contact, engaged, on time, asks good questions.”
As Alabama coach Nick Saban said when UA signed Williams, it does not tend to do a ton of junior college recruiting – so when it does, it expects to add a mature player who can contribute right away at a position of need. The opening weeks of preseason camp have shown Williams is not the only one capable of doing so, with freshmen Brian Branch and Malachi Moore earning high remarks from Saban. But Williams’ teammates have been impressed with him, too.
“He’s doing well. He’s in his playbook more than ever now,” Alabama corner Patrick Surtain II said in August. “He’s going to play a big part in our defense and we expect big things.”
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson