Williams, who averaged 46 yards per punt as a Wildcat senior, will join defensive end T.J. Minnifee as preferred walk ons for the Vols. Preferred walk ons are recruited by college teams just like scholarship players, but still pay their own way to school until they are awarded a scholarship. They’re higher up a program’s totem pole compared to players who walk on unannounced.
Williams, believed to be the first person to kick a field goal and/or extra point for Southside’s middle school team, is the nation’s 11th-ranked punter by Kohl’s Kicking Camp. He’ll challenge incumbent punter Trevor Daniel, a third-year junior who was on the Ray Guy Award watch list.
Also happening Thursday, Watertown left tackle/defensive end Rusty Staats announced he was de-committing to the Air Force Academy and casting his lot with the Naval Academy, where he will play in the offensive line. Former Friendship Christian star Andrew Wood just completed his sophomore season as starting right tackle for the Midshipmen.
Also joining Staats and Wood in Annapolis will be Central defensive back/wingback Devon High, Staats’ former teammate with the Purple Tigers.
Williams, Minnifee and High are three of 14 Wildcats from the graduating class of 2017 who could be in college football camps in August.
Wide receiver Colton Dowell has committed to UT-Martin after backing out of an earlier commit to Chattanooga. Safety Ray Coggins has also changed his mind after verbally casting his lot with Eastern Kentucky last summer. He now plans to sign with the Colonels’ Ohio Valley Conference rival Tennessee State.
Offensive linemen Ian Harris and Cole McCorkle and defensive lineman Shataveon Bass have committed to Bethel, where Watertown’s Vonte Bates is headed as a wide receiver.
Quarterback Blake Meadors plans to sign with the University of the Cumberlands. Linebacker Nic Screnock is choosing between joining Austin Peay as a preferred walk-on long snapper or going to West Point to play for Navy’s rival. Offensive lineman Gannon Starnes has committed to Morehead State. Defensive lineman Hunter Vaught is mulling an offer from Cumberland.
Running back Tyler Bowes, linemen Josh Gordon and Noah Stafford are undecided on their college choices, Wildcat coach Brad Dedman said.
National Signing Day is next Wednesday, though players may sign later.
Two who are likely to decide later are Friendship linemen Gregory Elliott and Hunter Williams.
Commander coach John McNeal said Elliott wants to attend Tennessee Tech, whose coaches have recruited him as a preferred walk on. McNeal said the coaches want to see how much weigh Elliott puts on between now and August.
Williams has been in contact with Lindsey Wilson and UT-Martin, McNeal said.
Mt. Juliet Christian running back Austin Collier and wide receiver Samuel Easton will also play at the next level, but where is a fluid situation now, coach Dan Davis said.
“There are a lot of things in the air right now,” Davis said Thursday.