Last week was an extremely busy one for the Michigan State Spartans in terms of recruiting. The football program gained six new recruits, including five in about a 24-hour period. One of those players is three-star running back Anthony “Ant” Williams Jr.
It's been a long & interesting journey...@DantonioMark @CoachWarnerMSU @CoachRonBurton @EDGYTIM @AllenTrieu @HEROH_ @EFTfootball #GoGreen pic.twitter.com/1YvSI1CTCO— Ant Williams Jr. ⚡ (@antwilliamsjr34) June 29, 2018
“I decided on MSU because it just feels right,” Williams said. “I’ve been up (to East Lansing) four or fives times already. It’s three hours away and we’ve been learning about each other for three years already.”
Williams, out of Bolingbrook High School in Illinois, ranks as the No. 59 running back in the country and the No. 16 player in his home state, according to the 247Sports Composite. According to Rivals, however, Williams is the 10th-best all-purpose running back in the entire country.
While Williams’ heart was set on Michigan State, he gathered several other offers from schools around the country. He had offers from Boston College, Oregon State, Cincinnati, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Toledo and several others.
The recruiting process was a mostly positive one for the future Spartan, and while it had its highs and lows, he was thankful for the process and opportunities.
“I enjoyed the recruiting process for the most part,” Williams said. “It was fun, stressful and had its ups and downs. I really appreciate every coach and school that offered me and/or gave me words of wisdom.”
Williams stands at 6-foot even and has bulked up a bit to 195 pounds. As mentioned, he is an all-purpose back, which means he isn’t afraid to run through you, run around you or catch the ball out of the backfield and make plays through the air.
His versatility and unique skill set makes him a great fit in Michigan State’s offensive scheme, which places a heavy emphasis on the ground game in hopes to open up the passing game.
Williams knows what his strengths are, and his “all-purpose” mentality is a big part of what makes him so confident.
“My biggest strength is me being an all-purpose back,” he said. “I’m very versatile and I can catch the ball really well. My ability to run in between the tackles and outside of tackle is really strong. I’m also able to make defenders miss or lower my shoulder and run through a defender. And the fact that I have deceptive speed (is another strength).”
Williams is hoping these kind attributes will open the door for him once he arrives at Michigan State. He knows that there should be a starting running back slot open to competition in 2019, and he’s ready to put in the work and earn early playing time.
Speaking of early playing time, Williams is planning to get a head start on learning the offense and adjusting to his life as a college student and athlete.
“I do see an opportunity for me to play early,” Williams said. “I’m graduating and enrolling early. I’m going to get there, start classes and learn my playbook.”
Next year, there will in fact be an open spot at running back. Incumbent starter L.J. Scott will be graduated, which leaves Connor Heyward, Weston Bridges, La’Darius Jefferson or Elijah Collins as the likely favorites to take over the role.
However, another running back will be entering the fold in 2019 — fellow three-star running back Brandon Wright. Wright, who is from Euclid, Ohio, committed the night before Williams.
Williams is the higher-rated recruit, but it also doesn’t offend him in the slightest that the Spartans brought in another halfback in the recruiting class. In fact, he welcomes it.
“I have not had a chance to talk to (Wright) yet, but I do plan to in the near future,” Williams said. “I like to compete, so it doesn’t bother me that another running back will be coming in with me.”
There will certainly be plenty of competition in the backfield next season. So Williams, and the other backs who thrive in those situations, will be in their element.
Williams has started to reach out to and speak with a few of the other MSU recruits, and plans to do so more often as he alluded to above. He also told me that he is constantly building upon his relationships with Coach Dantonio and the rest of the offensive staff.
Speaking of relationships, Williams will already have a familiar face on campus and on the practice field. Dashaun Mallory, a late 2018 commit for MSU at the defensive tackle spot, was a teammate of Williams at Bolingbrook.
“I think it will be helpful to have someone that I already have a relationship with for an easy transition (to college),” Williams said.
In addition to his friendships and relationships with fellow players and coaches, Michigan State really made Williams feel welcomed. He feels like he is part of something big, and understands the history and pride of the football program.
Not only does Williams believe he is a great system fit with MSU, he knows that once he steps foot on campus and puts on that uniform, that is something that he will cherish forever. He understands what it means to be a Spartan, and that it’s not just something that goes away after four or five years in East Lansing.
“MSU has always had an elite program,” Williams said. “The alumni are great and have welcomed me to the family. You really get the feeling that you are a Spartan for life. They have a big time program that is a perfect fit for me. I think I will do really well in the system we run.”
The Raiders’ star running back is not forgetting about the task at hand, though. His senior football campaign starts soon and he is ready for the challenges. He has some lofty expectations and goals for himself and his team.
“My goals for this upcoming season are that I want to rush for 1,500-plus yards, have 500-plus receiving yards and win a state championship,” he said.
If you haven’t had the chance to watch Williams’ highlights yet, do yourself a favor and check them out: