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Williams runs with an edge, brings versatility to FSU

LaVaar Scott recalls arriving at his alma mater, Sebring High, as head coach and taking a long look at a young running back, D.J. Williams, who was quiet but also lean and talented.

“Before we even put on pads, you see the explosiveness, the shiftiness, the work ethic,” Scott told the Osceola.

Williams hadn’t been in the weight room much before transferring to Sebring High, but Scott saw that he went to work, gradually adding weight and strength. Scott, who played at Miami from 1998-2002, knew what he had once they put the pads on.

“He reminds me of his uncle,” Scott said. “I played with Edgerrin (James) at the University of Miami. His running style reminds me of him so much.”

Williams developed into quite the tailback at Sebring High, rushing for 1,221 yards with 21 touchdowns and passing for 1,113 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior. The consensus four-star prospect chose Auburn, running for 400 yards on 84 carries (4.8-yard average) and two touchdowns as a true freshman in 2019. He was poised to take the next step as a sophomore before ankle and hip injuries limited him to 38 carries for 199 yards and three touchdowns.

When Williams entered the transfer portal, he said moving back to Florida or picking Florida State wasn’t in the plans. But a built-in relationship with offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, who had the same role at Auburn in Williams’ freshman season, was a big factor.

“It was really a process of just having a relationship with people,” Williams said. “So that made it really easy to make my selection. … (Dillingham) is always a positive guy. He just lights up the room wherever he goes.”

Williams, who is a sophomore in 2021, saw the appeal in the commitment coach Mike Norvell and Dillingham have made to running the ball. Behind a young-but-improving offensive line, the Seminoles averaged 199.89 yards per game (31st in the FBS) in 2020. And it likely helped that FSU had landed grad transfer quarterback McKenzie Milton in December.

“It definitely did when you look at it from the outside,” Williams said. “Last year, record wasn’t too good, but I believe they have something cooking here.”

FSU’s 3-6 record last fall hasn’t been a detriment as Norvell and the staff have hit the transfer portal for seven prospects who are currently on campus (wide receiver Andrew Parchment will join the group this summer). And in Williams, FSU adds another versatile option to a running back room that features Jashaun Corbin, Lawrance Toafili and Deonte Sheffield.

“He brings a complete package of speed and power and will be a tremendous compliment to the guys we have in the running back room,” Norvell said earlier this month.

Scott readily admits to his Miami allegiance but is looking forward to seeing what Williams will do in the future with the Seminoles.

“He’s an every-down back,” Scott said. “He definitely can run between the tackles. And he can definitely take it the distance.”

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