While fans waited in anticipation as the Ducks finished off their 2019 recruiting class, the coaches on staff were busy laying the groundwork for the 2020 class behind the scenes. Their diligence paid off, as the Ducks already have a couple of commitments for the 2020 cycle.
The headliner is Deeland, Fla. athlete Avantae Williams: a 5’11, 170-lb. missile who is expected to play safety at the next level. He surprised many by pledging to the Ducks despite playing clear across the country. In fact, he never even visited Eugene — a sign that the national brand of Oregon is regaining its potency.
But it’s also cause for concern.
Schools in the Southeast aren’t too keen on the Ducks snagging premier players from their backyards. And as is the case in the recruiting world, Williams’ “commitment” is little more than a minor setback in the eyes of their coaches.
Where the Ducks Stand With Williams
Williams has been a hot commodity for a while now, and his star is continuing to rise. He’s a high four-star prospect, and the 48th-ranked prospect overall, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. With a good showing this offseason, he could even see a fifth star added to his profile.
He has been a local legend since his days in middle school when the Gators made headlines by offering him a scholarship while he was in 8th grade.
It’s no surprise that Florida and Miami, two schools that have witnessed Williams’ abilities up close for the past few years, have been recruiting him heavily, and were considered by many the favorites to land his services.
Williams actually committed to the Hurricanes in 2017, and remained committed for over a year before backing off of his pledge in 2018. Williams’ cousin Lorenzo Lingard is currently a running back for the Hurricanes, so there’s obviously incentive for Williams to stay in state and play for Manny Diaz’s squad.
So why did he commit to the Ducks, especially since he’s never even set foot on campus?
According to Williams, he committed because of his relationship with cornerbacks coach Donte Williams, one of the Ducks’ top recruiters. In an interview with 247Sports, Avantae Williams said the following about Donte Williams’ influence:
“Coach Donte (Williams) is my guy. He’s been telling me about how they can develop talent and how they need me out there.”
Although Williams is formally committed to the Ducks, his status is up in the air. With connections down south and little familiarity with Oregon, there are plenty who expect him to eventually decommit.
And despite momentarily giving Duck fans a huge sigh of relief by posting on his Twitter account that he was shutting down his recruitment, he has since deleted the tweet.
Still, experts at ScoopDuck believe that Williams is “locked in,” and that his initial tweet was confirmation that he is indeed solid with the Ducks. And 247Sports conducted an interview with Williams, right around the time of his social media tease, that largely validated ScoopDuck’s report.
Williams seemed confident and affirmative in his responses, saying:
“I am committed there (Oregon). They are my guys. … I let (other schools) know what’s up. I let them know I am solid. I am cool with Oregon. That’s where I am committed to.”
But others in the industry aren’t convinced.
So what’s the deal? Is he as solid with the Ducks as he professes to be, or is it only a matter of time before he reevaluates his status?
If history is an indicator, it will be difficult for the Ducks to stave off the Florida schools, which are swarming Williams like a school of sharks. Oregon does have two of the best recruiters in the business pursuing him, however, in Donte Williams and Keith Heyward, so they’ll likely be in the thick of things until the end. But a local school is likely to win this battle, especially if the Ducks can’t get Williams on campus.
The Ripple Effect
Williams isn’t the only prospect that the Ducks are eyeing from the Sunshine State. Four-star safety Lejond Cavazos from IMG Academy, Fla. is close friends with Williams. And his decision may be heavily influenced by what Williams decides to do.
Cavazos is a serious burner who would be an asset to any secondary. His verified 40-yard dash time of 4.2 seconds is faster than any officially clocked time in NFL history. The thought of having a center-fielder roaming the secondary with that speed is one that the Ducks would love to make a reality.
Cavazos seems to fancy the thought as well, validating his interest in the program in an interview with ScoopDuck:
“Oregon was one of my dream schools growing up. I like them a lot. The coaches are great; they’re very honest and genuine, which is great to see and hear. … I talk to coach (Mario) Cristobal like twice a day, and I talk to coach (Donte) Williams every day, multiple times a day, which I’m cool with because I have a lot of interest in them.”
The Ducks have been a player in Cavazos’ recruitment for a while. Unlike Williams, he has actually visited Eugene, doing so shortly before he committed to Ohio State last year. He decommitted when Urban Meyer stepped down, and now he plans to make a return trip to Oregon in the spring.
Things are looking good for the Ducks here, but that could change depending on how the Williams situation plays out. In an interview with the 247Sports, Cavazos explained just how much he values Williams’ friendship and how significant their impact on one another has been:
“Avante is like my best friend. He came to IMG, and he was there for a year. That’s like a real life blood brother to me. There’s not much more I can say about that. I know Avante has my back, and I have his back too. I wanna go somewhere I’m comfortable and I know if something was to happen, that’s one dude I can count on.”
The two prospects aren’t a confirmed “package deal,” but it’s safe to say that if Williams falls out of love with Oregon, that could spell trouble for the Ducks’ chances with Cavazos too. On the other hand, if Williams stays the course with Oregon, the Ducks could wind up with one of the best one-two punches in the secondary that they’ve ever landed. And, oh by the way, it’d ruffle some feathers in SEC territory.
Let’s hope that the latter comes to fruition.
Morgantown, West Virginia Top Photo From Twitter
And a special thanks to the experts and insiders at 247Sports and ScoopDuck, who provide fans with the best and most in-depth Oregon recruiting news in the industry. Subscribe to each of them for premium content and the most up-to-date recruiting news.
Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.
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