Bryson Allen-Williams was a highly-regarded linebacker prospect out of Cedar Grove High School in Ellenwood, Ga., for the class of 2014. Those attributes make him a perfect case study for recruiting in the most competitive recruiting market in America. Allen-Williams was surrounded by powerhouse programs, and he was coveted by all of them.
The linebacker signed with South Carolina and was committed to the Gamecocks throughout, but was recruited by Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech and USC, among others. Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution caught up with Allen-Williams for his perspective on the recruiting process, and its’ an insightful look at some of the biggest names in the sport.
For instance, did you know that Mark Richt is an expert bowler? Or that Paul Johnson is “crazy good” at ping pong? Or that Lane Kiffin is so…. Lane Kiffin? Allen-Williams’ perspective is one we rarely get to see in the behind-closed-doors world of recruiting.
On the stealth double-agent process of taking official visits: “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.”
On the multi-talented 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.”
On his own Lane Kiffin moment: “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.”
On his favorite non-SEC 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.”
On negative recruiting: “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.’…. Some of the other coaches on the (Georgia) 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.’” “
….And how that negative recruiting backfired: “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.”
On his favorite attention-grabbing ploy from a school: “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.”