With the early national signing period starting on Wednesday, it looked like Syracuse football was going to be stuck on 16 recruits for the 2020 cycle. SU picked up a big-time late pledge from Florida wideout Damien Alford but it looked like that was where the commitments would stop, at least ahead of Wednesday. That was until Dino Babers sent out this Tweet early on Sunday afternoon.
If you’ve been following along with the 2020 cycle, you know that that Tweet means that the Orange just picked up a new commit. For most of the other guys in this class, news had already broken about their specific commitment before Dino got a chance to tweet. This time though, the guy that had pledged to SU was a bit of a mystery. That mystery was solved just about an hour after Dino sent out his Tweet.
Ja’Vontae Williams is a consensus three-star recruit who checks in as the second wide receiver in the class along with Alford and eighth best recruit in the class according to 247Sports. The Belle Grade, FL native is the 176th best wideout in the nation and is ranked 147th overall in the always loaded state of Florida. For a little comparison, Taj Harris was the 124th best wideout in his class while guys like Jamal Custis (114) and Amba Etta-Tawo (157) were similarly ranked.
For a team that struggled offensively this season and will be losing its best wideouts in just a few years’ time (Trishton Jackson and Nykeim Johnson each have a year left while Taj Harris has two more), it’s pretty important for the Orange to load up on wideouts and talented pass-catching tight ends while they can so that Tommy DeVito and future QBs like David Summers will have quality targets in the future.
SU secured Williams’ commitment through a couple of other really impressive offers. The 6-foot, 196 pounder also held offers from Miami, Oregon and an up-and-coming Indiana program that has one of the better wideouts in the Big Ten in Whop Philyor. That’s more evidence that even in a year where the offense looked horrendous, the Dino Babers style is still attractive to recruits who want to play in a high-flying offense.
As for what Williams brings on an individual basis, the first thing that pops off the page is the wideout legacy that his high school has. Williams attends Glades Central High School in Belle Glade which is the same high school as NFL wideouts Kelvin and Travis Benjamin and former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes. Funnily enough, Glades Central’s arch rival is nearby Pahokee High School where SU defensive end commit and the top recruit in the Orange’s 2020 class, Latarie Kinsler, played his high school football.
Outside of the pedigree, Williams has good speed, clocking in at a 4.5 40-yard dash and is quick and shifty enough to make people miss in the open field or make something out of nothing on broken plays. He’s got the ability to make you pay in either zone or man coverage because of that speed that gets him into soft spots or beat his man one-on-one.
Like many high school wide receivers, it’s going to be interesting to see what Williams can do against more complicated defensive schemes and higher quality athletes on defense. Right now, pretty much his entire skill set (at least on tape) is based off his superior speed and athleticism. He’s better than everyone else meaning that all he has to do is run by them with one quick move and he’s wide open.
It’ll be interesting to see how he responds when he has to make tough catches with defenders draped all over him or how his route-running and decision-making will develop with a more complicated offensive playbook and a more difficult defensive scheme to crack.
No matter what way you slice it, though, Williams is a big pick-up for the 2020 cycle. He’s a quality offensive piece for an attack that really struggled this year and has many of the tools necessary to be successful at the next level. With he and Alford and tight end Steven Mahar in tow, the 2020 class looks like it could be a fun one for the future of SU pass catchers.