Bryson Allen-Williams was the state’s most exciting recruiting battle to follow around this year’s signing day.
And nobody really saw it coming because the 4-star linebacker committed early to South Carolina during his junior year at Cedar Grove High School.
Everything was moving along rather quietly until Allen-Williams had a dominating performance against many of the nation’s top prospects at last January’s Army All-America Bowl.
With less than a month before signing day, he instantly became a household name in recruiting circles. Several SEC schools attempted last-minute courtships, and Allen-Williams fueled the excitement by taking official visits to Alabama and UGA on the final two weekends.
Allen-Williams stuck with his original decision and signed with South Carolina. He reflected on his roller-coaster finish in recruiting with the AJC:
Which school finished second for you? “It was tie between Georgia and Alabama. Both of those schools did amazing jobs.”
What was the closest moment you came to flipping from South Carolina? “Probably on the last night of my official visit to UGA. I was at Coach Richt’s house and he told me ‘If you come here, you’re going to be the guy on our defense in the future.’ (Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt) told me ‘You come here, you’re going to play from the first day.’ That was pretty big coming from the head coach and defensive coordinator of a top program. (Pruitt) told me I reminded him so much of (former Florida State linebacker) Telvin Smith. It was a huge honor because Telvin Smith was one of the key players in the national championship game. But at the end of the day, I just knew that South Carolina was the best place for me.”
What could UGA have done any better, if anything? They came after me a little late and I’m a man of my word. I committed to South Carolina on April 15, 2013. Everybody knew when I did that, that was the spot I was going to be at for the next four or five years.
Did South Carolina have a meltdown when you visited Alabama and UGA the last two weeks? “No, not really. I had talked to South Carolina about it before I committed. I asked (defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward) if I could still take official visits to other schools, and he said it was OK. But with me recruiting so many other players to South Carolina, they felt like it was OK for me to take official visits because I earned it. I deserved to experience other schools. It also helped South Carolina because I was able to tell them how it was at other schools for official visits. And they’re going to be able to use that information to transform how they do official visits at South Carolina.”
What was your biggest secret? Last summer, it was hard to stay committed to South Carolina because other schools were recruiting me so hard. I was thinking about de-committing. But after talking to my mom and Coach Ward, he assured me that everything was going to be all right. He assured me that I was going to be one of the stars of the future. That helped me know that South Carolina was the place for me.”
Funniest thing a coach said to you? “It was Coach (Steve) Spurrier, and I think it was before I committed. You know, they have a safety on their team named Brison Williams, and my name is Bryson Allen-Williams. When we were talking, Coach Spurrier told me that he needed some DBs. I looked at my mom, and I was like ‘I don’t think I play DB.’ He called back a couple of days later and said ‘Aw, my bad. I had you mistaken you for Brison Williams.’ So I thought that was pretty funny.”
Funniest memory with Mark Richt? “When we were playing basketball at his house, Coach Richt was trying to teach me how to shoot. I’m not that good at basketball, and Coach Richt was out there trying to play and he just had a hip replacement. Coach Richt said that I blocked my own shot because I put my hand in front of the ball when I shoot. He told me to move my hands to the side a little bit. We also went bowling, and he had his own ball and everything. You’re a serious bowler if you bring your own ball. He had like two balls, and somebody was carrying them. I think it was one of his sons. Coach Richt is a terrific bowler. He was coming off his hip surgery and bowled like a 300.”
Funniest memory with Nick Saban? “I don’t think he said anything too funny to me. We were in some golf carts, and it almost crashed. He almost went off on the person who was driving the cart. But he (Saban) was laughing, and he told us how he had his own lake in his backyard at his house. But there’s another good story related to Alabama. USC is 3,000 miles from here. My mom paid for us to go out there last year during spring break. I went out there to UCLA, and I spent the whole day with Coach (Jim Mora and his assistants). I went to USC, and probably talked to (Lane Kiffin) for five minutes and then he left. So we were like ‘One of the top prospects from the East Coast takes the time to visit you, and then you only stay for five minutes?’ Coach Kiffin is at Alabama now. When I went on my official visit to Alabama, he was like ‘I am so sorry about that. I hope you don’t take that out on Alabama. That was totally my fault. I had a lot going on.’ That was just so funny to my mom and I. We still laugh about that today.”
The coach it was hardest to say “no” to? Coach Richt, definitely. He sold the program so well. If they had more time, it probably would’ve been a much harder decision, even harder than it was already. They sent me a letter of intent and everything. Both South Carolina and Georgia sent me letters of intent. When I had to call Coach Richt and tell him I was going to South Carolina, it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life.”
Alabama didn’t send you a letter of intent? “They knew from earlier. When I called Coach Smart to let him know, it was like he already pretty much knew. He was like ‘I feel like South Carolina is the best spot for you anyways right now.’ He said ‘I would love to have you here. You’re a great player, and you have a great future ahead of you. I can really see you at South Carolina. You’ll strive at South Carolina and be one of the top players in the SEC at South Carolina.’”
So Kirby Smart was pushing for you to go South Carolina over UGA? “I don’t know if it was that. But he told me that I was a good fit for South Carolina, and that South Carolina was getting a really a good player.”
Which school would you have considered more if they had offered earlier? “Definitely Georgia. They offered me on signing day last year (during my junior year). I felt like if they had offered me earlier, it could’ve been different. It would’ve been a way harder decision. Georgia and Alabama were two of my favorite schools going into the process. And I just felt like Georgia was offering out-of-state kids before the in-state kids. But I can really see them changing that this year. With the 2015 cycle, they’re offering a lot more in-state kids earlier.”
Nicest non-South Carolina coach? “Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson. He was pretty cool. I went to a game when they played BYU. We were playing ping pong. He’s crazy good in ping pong. I went there last year to watch the NFC Championship game, and we ate pizza together. He’s one of the coolest coaches out there.”
How much negative recruiting was out there? “There was ton. More than I thought it would be. Because I had been committed to South Carolina so long, I really didn’t think many schools were going to come back in at the end like they did. A lot of schools were saying ‘Why are you going to South Carolina? South Carolina has never won a national championship. South Carolina hasn’t done this or that.’ I did some research, and South Carolina has the second-highest winning percentage in the SEC the last three years, and they’re also the only SEC team to win their bowl games the last three years. That’s some huge numbers. If you think about a couple of plays going differently, they could’ve been playing for national championships in two out of the last three years. I feel like South Carolina is on the brink of greatness. I feel like with some more good players that we’re bringing in this year, South Carolina is on the brink of winning the national championship in the near future.”
What about that report by GamecockCentral.com that UGA did negative recruiting? “Georgia didn’t really do any negative recruiting. Well, Coach Richt didn’t do any negative recruiting. Some of the other coaches on the staff did negative recruiting. I’m not going to name the coaches or anything. They said some things like ‘South Carolina can’t use you the way that I will use you. South Carolina is a stagnant defense.’”
Did South Carolina counter when other colleges did negative recruiting? “Oh yeah, after every recruiting trip, I’d call Coach Ward and tell him what they were saying. He told me ‘You know it’s not true.’ He told me his plans for me. His plan for me was 10 times better than any other school. He really has serious plans for me to come in next year and make an impact.”
What was the biggest rumor that wasn’t true? “That Coach Richt stayed at my house during the snowstorm. That was very funny because he actually came to the school when it started snowing. And he just left (my house) five minutes before it got really, really bad. That was a big rumor. Everybody was wondering if that was true, and if it was legal with the NCAA. I thought the whole thing was pretty funny.”
Most creative thing a college did to get your attention? “Arizona sent me a ‘Wanted’ poster early in the recruiting process. It said something like ‘Wanted: For being a dominant force on defense’ or ‘Wanted: For being one of the top pass rushers in the country.’ I thought it was very creative.”
Recruiting advice for high school juniors? “Take all of your visits. Don’t commit too early because toward the end, when more schools start to come in, it’s kind of hard to tell them ‘no’ and to stay firmly committed to one school because so many schools are selling great dreams to you. So take your time, and only commit if you’re ready. Don’t commit for the fans. Don’t commit for the coaches. Don’t commit to boost your rankings. You should only commit when you feel like you’ve found the school you want to be at for the next four or five years.”
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