Since before the turn of the 20th century, Oregon and Oregon State have competed on the football field in what is known as the Civil War. Although this interstate battle is not scheduled until late November, the rivalry deepened this past weekend when USC transfer Devon Williams flipped from Oregon State to Oregon in a matter of hours.
On September 25th, Oregon’s chances to land Williams seemed to dwindle upon news that he had signed paperwork to attend Oregon State University. Those chances seemed even more remote after OSU football let loose a “Welcome Devon Williams” tweet.
Williams is a former 2018 four-star recruit from Southern California who played both wide receiver and defensive back in high school. Williams was heavily recruited by Oregon and by most accounts was a favorite to land there before a surprising signing day flip to USC.
Williams is a 6-4, 210-pound speed receiver who thrives on the outside, with vertical range to make contested catches. He is a thinner, faster version of senior transfer Juwan Johnson, who is expected to return from injury soon.
What Went Wrong at USC?
In 2018, his true freshman season at USC, Williams played in 12 games but had only 4 catches for 87 yards and a receiving touchdown. Displaying his recruiting rank as No. 1 athlete, he also contributed a touchdown off a blocked punt. This season, prior to entering the transfer portal, he had 1 catch for 11 yards in two games.
Williams’ talent had clearly been underutilized in a crowded USC wide receiver group. He played behind many older players such as senior Michael Pittman who is the older brother of Ducks receiver, Mycah Pittman. While he may have been underutilized, his appearance in 12 games as a true freshman and his contributions of a touchdown catch against Notre Dame and touchdown recovery off a blocked punt on a team stacked with talent suggests nothing went wrong with him at USC.
Williams’ 40 Hours as a Beaver
Not only was Williams a favorite to land with the Ducks out of high school, but once he entered the transfer portal, many assumed that Oregon would be the destination. As a result, Williams’ commitment to the Beavers seemed like a second gut-punch for Duck fans. While the ‘SC flip was a blow, Williams’ apparent commitment to the in-state rival just 45 miles north really knocked the wind out.
But as fast as the commitment seemed to come together for Oregon State and Williams, it unraveled even quicker. After abruptly leaving Corvallis Thursday afternoon and returning home to Southern California, rumors began spreading that Williams’ commitment to the Beavers was not so definite. Somewhere, Lloyd Christmas could be heard saying “So you’re sayin’ there’s a chance …”
Then on Friday, fewer than 48 hours after signing with OSU, Williams announced his commitment to the Ducks. And just like that, big brother got his candy back from little brother.
Why Did Williams Change His Mind?
Williams’ decision was a shock to the entire college football world, as there was minimal public indication that he had a change of heart. Many have been skeptical about the reasons for Williams’ decision to commit and de-commit from Oregon State in such a short time frame. There have been conflicting reports whether the Ducks ever formally re-offered Williams a scholarship, and some believe that at the time of his commitment to OSU, he had yet to receive an offer from UO. Others believe Williams genuinely wanted to play for Oregon State and coach Jonathan Smith but just had a change of heart.
Whatever Williams’ reasons for the quick decision change, it was not a positive look for the Oregon State Football Twitter account to make a welcome post for Williams before he started classes or resumed football activities. To make things worse, the post is still online.
Williams Is Ready to Be a Duck
Although Williams has had recruiting-related drama that has followed him throughout his brief college football career, he seems genuinely excited and ready to be a Duck. When announcing his commitment to the Ducks, Williams tweeted that he was “honored and excited to be attending [his] dream school.”
He followed that up by saying that he:
“Knew in [his] heart that this is where [he] belonged and [he] cannot wait to be playing in Autzen Stadium wearing green and yellow.”
Williams seems not only excited to play for the Ducks, but determined to succeed there as well. His previous collegiate career may have some complications; however, if he is able and willing to work hard under coach Mario Cristobal, his potential is quite tantalizing.
Unfortunately, due to transfer rules, Williams will not be able to participate in games until next season. This gives him an enormous amount of time to learn the playbook, become familiar with the staff, and develop a connection with his likely future quarterback Tyler Shough.
Next year, Williams will likely be competing for playing time with other receivers such as Johnny Johnson Jr, Jaylon Redd, Mycah Pittman, Bryan Addison and Johnny Wilson. Due to his great size and speed, Williams will likely line up on the outside as an “X” or “Z” receiver.
The time has come for Williams to prove his maturity and leadership. If it doesn’t work out with the Ducks, other teams may believe his talent isn’t worth the risk. But I believe Williams is currently in his best situation to obtain personal and team success. Learning from leaders such as coach Mario Cristobal and senior quarterback Justin Herbert should allow Williams to maximize his potential. At 6’4″, 210 pounds, with athleticism and speed, his ceiling is high.
And as we all now know, the kid can cut on a dime.
Eugene, OregonTop Photo from Twitter
Phil Anderson, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.
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