By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — David Williams is arguably the best high school football player in Pennsylvania. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior tailback has been receiving major college scholarship offers since his sophomore year, when he led West Catholic to the PIAA Class AA state championship.
Among the schools that were hotly in pursuit of Williams, rated No. 10 in the country among running backs by CBS/MaxPreps, was Penn State.
Williams, who’s received offers from Tennessee, South Carolina, California, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Auburn, Notre Dame and Temple, just to name a few, is stepping back, as are many other recruits who once thought about going to Penn State.
“Penn State was high on my list,” admitted Williams, who rushed for 1,950 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior for West Catholic, before transferring to Imhotep Charter in March. “I visited Penn State four or five times and I had a lot of interest in the school. But when I was watching the announcement by the NCAA with all of the sanctions on Monday, and I thought it was too hard to think about going there,” he said.
“I think it’s cruel what happened to Penn State, because this coaching staff wasn’t there. There is a lot going on up there, and there are a lot of things I have to evaluate before thinking about Penn State again. I want to play in a bowl game in college; I’d like to play for a national championship. In the back of your mind, you can’t play for a Big 10 championship at Penn State during the time an incoming freshman would be there. I won a state championship as a sophomore and made it the state semifinals last year. I want to enjoy the whole college experience and what winning is like.”
Williams spoke to Penn State coach Bill O’Brien a week before the sanctions were announced. Williams said O’Brien anticipated Penn State was waiting for something to possibly happen from the NCAA. Williams said he was impressed by O’Brien’s honesty, and that “He was honest with me, and I thought that told me what kind of person he is. I could play for someone like Coach O’Brien.”
Though many of the upper classmen at Penn State have publicly vowed at stay at Penn State, Williams also relayed a very ominous cloud for Penn State ahead.
“A lot of guys I spoke to think Penn State is done, it’s through and that’s too crucial,” Williams said. “It’s going to take a lot of years to recover from this. For my time in college, it wouldn’t be right. It’s why I’m looking at other places. It could take a long time for Penn State to recover.
“I know guys that play for Penn State. I do feel bad for them. This was supposed to be their year. Now they’re going to have to establish themselves again. There are a lot of guys that don’t know what they’re going to do yet; but guys are thinking of getting out of there. The older guys are staying, I get the sense, and a lot of the younger guys are thinking of leaving. I’m thinking of other schools, personally. Penn State doesn’t sit as high as they once did for me.”
Penn State has already lost Greg Webb, a 6-foot-2, 290-pound defensive lineman from Timber Creek Regional (Erial, N.J.). Webb decommitted from Penn State on Saturday and will attend North Carolina. Webb is ranked No. 18 nationally among defensive tackles by CBS/MaxPreps.
According to CBS/MaxPreps, linebacker Trey Johnson, from Central Gwinnett (Lawrenceville, Ga.) and one of the top recruits in Georgia, will not take a visit to Penn State. Johnson committed to Auburn, but highly considered Penn State because of his relationship with defensive coordinator Ted Roof, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Trey was going to honor his relationship with coach Roof, he was going to take his official visit up there – and you don’t ever know what a kid will do after an official visit,” Central Gwinnett coach Todd Wofford told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He was going to give coach Roof the respect to go up there and give them a good look. But that won’t be an option now after all the NCAA stuff.”
Johnson, a 6-2, 222-pound senior, is ranked No. 2 nationally by CBS/MaxPreps at inside linebacker and is rated as the 47th best player overall in the country.