Alex Williams is a pretty even-keeled kid, his mother, Jennifer, said.
But when Ohio State offered the Pickerington North star a scholarship about two weeks ago, Williams found it hard to keep his emotions in check.
“Being an Ohio kid and having an Ohio-based family, you lose your mind,” he said at his signing ceremony he shared Wednesday with Ball State-bound teammate Tyler (Red) Potts. “It was very humbling and surreal. I’m very proud to be an Ohio State Buckeye.”
Williams, 6 feet 7 and 250 pounds, is projected by most recruiting analysts as a defensive end. Ohio State’s interest in him increased after five-star end Brenton Cox decommitted recently.
But on Wednesday, coach Urban Meyer spoke first about him as a tight end. Ohio State’s depth at that position took a hit with A.J. Alexander forced to stop playing because of a knee injury and Kierre Hawkins’ transfer to Youngstown State.
Williams said he’d prefer to play defensive end but will do whatever the team needs.
“I think he can do either,” Meyer said. “There are needs at both spots.”
Williams originally committed to Iowa State in April 2016 before switching to West Virginia 13 months later. He committed to the Mountaineers after a junior season in which he missed about half the season because of a back injury. Williams didn’t need surgery, and he was intent on having a big senior year.
“He worked out nonstop,” said his father, Dan. “He never misses a workout. He changed his diet. He put on 35 pounds of muscle. He did speed training/speed techniques and stayed in the weight room. His work ethic is like no other.”
Williams also is an excellent student. His parents said he has a 3.8 grade-point average.
“He was a leader and a captain,” Pickerington North coach Nate Hillerich said. “He checks all the boxes you want.”
Just a number?
Not only did lineman Jackson Carman, the nation’s No. 1 tackle prospect, of Fairfield opt to leave Ohio by signing with Clemson, he burned a bridge of sorts on the way out.
While speaking on the attractions of playing for the defending national champion, he indicated that Clemson coach Dabo Swinney directed a shot at Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.
“He also kind of mentioned that Urban was on the back half of his career, which he is, and that Dabo is just starting up, so I mean having the chance to be a part of something that’s upcoming and establish Clemson as a top three figure is something,” Carman said, according to the Dayton Daily News.
Meyer, at 53, is just five years older than Swinney, but Meyer is in his 16th season as a head coach.
When asked if the age difference mattered in his decision, Carman said, “Not hugely, but it was an underlying factor.”
When reached by The Dispatch for a response, Meyer said he had none.
Williams is one of only four Ohioans in the Buckeyes’ class so far, along with Westerville’s Jaelen Gill, Toledo’s Dallas Gant and Huber Heights’ L’Christian "Blue" Smith. Ohio State hopes to add Cleveland defensive end Tyreke Smith to the class.
Even if they do add Smith, signing only five Ohio players is believed to be a record low.
“Yeah, that's a problem,” Meyer said.
He said it’s not his intent to bypass local prospects. This year was considered a down year in Ohio. Meyer said that academics were an issue with some players in whom they had interest.
Ohio State backed off recruiting five-star Pennsylvania defensive end Micah Parsons after self-reporting NCAA violations that occurred during his official visit in September.
Parsons signed with Penn State on Wednesday.
“I get extremely upset when I see that there was something done that was done incorrectly, and we do everything we possibly can to make sure that does not happen again,” Meyer said.
The issue with Parsons involved improper photos with ESPN "College GameDay" analysts and access to part of the "GameDay" set not open to the public.
“Even if it sounds minor, it's not minor,” Meyer said. “Everybody in our program should know the rules, and that shouldn't have happened.”
Meyer had plenty to say about Jeremy Ruckert of Lindenhurst, New Jersey, who is the No. 1 tight end prospect according to the 247Sports composite.
Meyer apologized beforehand for what he knew was going to be hyperbole, then said, “Jeremy Ruckert might be the best tight end prospect that I've ever seen and recruited. His skill set is ridiculous. Now it's a question of getting him ready to play.”