Shakenneth Williams took a lot of people by surprise when he committed to the Georgia Bulldogs at this summer's Dawg Night camp. But if you were there for the camp, it was no surprise:
4 days of probably 800+ players I have seen. Best play of the week was one handed catch by @Shakenneth Williams of Rutland at UGA yesterday.— Rusty Mansell (@Mansell247) June 10, 2013
Cameron Sims was the best WR in session 1 of #MarkRichtCamp, but Shakenneth Williams has been just as impressive so far.— Kipp Adams (@KippLAdams) June 8, 2013
In addition to the Georgia offer that he jumped on so quickly, Shakenneth Williams also claimed scholarship opportunities from Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Missouri, Vanderbilt, and Central Florida. It's not the most impressive offer list going, but it's enough to let you know that there's something there. Something that a variety of college football coaches saw and think they can work with.
ESPN ranks Williams a 4 star recruit and among the nation's top 300 prospects for 2014. Most other recruiting services are a little more reserved in their praise. And I have a suspicion about why that is.
Take a look at this film from Williams's junior campaign. During the 2012 season Williams didn't have a whole lot of help at Rutland and lined up all over the place. One thing that you see in this film, what the Georgia coaches saw, was a solidly built (6'1, 200 pound) receiver who's willing to catch the ball in traffic. Williams catches the ball with his hands, rarely letting it get into his body. But there's just not a lot of evidence that he's a surefire SEC-caliber receiver.
Williams has deceptive speed. In the above highlight video you don't often see him outrunning everyone to the end zone. A lot of that is a) that Rutland's offense isn't a spread attack that gets playmakers like Williams out in space, and b) at least in 2012, Rutland didn't throw Shakenneth Williams a lot of good blocks. But at the Nike SPARQ camp in Atlanta back in April he ran a blistering 4.47 forty. Nick Chubb ran a 4.58 on the same field that day. Jeb Blazevich posted a 4.97. Georgia Tech DB commits Lawrence and Lance Austin ran 4.60. 2015 5 star receiver/corner (and Bulldog commit) Terry Godwin ran a 4.66. And Williams's SPARQ score (a blended measure of strength and speed) was fourth overall behind only Chubb, Pleasant Grove, Alabama running back Charles Buchannon, and five star defensive end (and top remaining Bulldog target) Lorenzo Carter.
TL;DR version: Shakenneth Williams is an elite athlete, among the best speed/size combos in the South for the class of 2014. I think that had he played at any number of other traditional football powers he would be a lot more highly rated based on that alone.
Fast forward a year, and take a look at Williams's 2013 highlights. Surrounded by a playoff-caliber team (and playing his natural position, wide receiver) Williams is a different player:
This video is an entirely different story. Williams still has the hands. Really good hands. But he's also getting the ball in a position that allows him to use that 4.47 speed. He's also significantly improved his body control, making catches in a position to gain yards after the catch. You also see him using that big frame to take the ball away from defenders, a key skill in college, where it's hard to outrun defensive backs on every play no matter how fast you are. Really, this video shows a lot of improvement from one year to the next, a lot of which is player development, and some of which is just playing on a better team and at a better position.
I try not to make grand pronouncements about high school football players and their collegiate prospects. There's a lot that can go wrong between the high school gridiron and SEC success. But I'll say this: Shakenneth Williams is underrated. He may be the most underrated player in this signing class. Had he not jumped on the offer from the 'Dawgs last summer and played the game a little, he'd be ranked more highly by most recruiting outlets. As it is, Georgia is getting a guy who under the tutelage of Tony Ball could become a really special receiver. Until later . . .