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P.J. Williams, Cornerback: Florida State Football 2013 Season Preview

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
No. 26 | PJ Williams | 6’0, 190 | Sophomore | Cornerback

Background via Florida State

Versatile four-star defensive back that can play either corner or safety...played safety for Ocala's Vanguard High School and showed good ball skills and instincts on his way to being named Vangaurd's first ever Under Armour All-American...also played wide receiver...recorded 52 tackles as a senior and earned Associated Press' Class 6A all-state first team honors as a defensive utility player...played in the Under Armour All-America game and made three tackles and had one pass break-up for Team Blur...named first team All-County by The Ocala Star-Banner...named to the Super 75 by the Florida Times-Union...No. 52 on the Orlando Sentinel's 2012 Florida Top 100...rated a four-star recruit by ESPN, Rivals, and 6 safety, No. 23 player in Florida and No. 59 regionally by ESPN and the No. 133 player on the ESPNU 150...ranked No. 9 safety, No. 23 player in Florida and No. 118 nationally by Rivals...No. 46 on the Mobile Register's Super Southeast 120...listed as the No. 10 safety and No. 16 player in the Florida Top 100...No. 11 safety, No. 25 player in Florida and No. 168 on the Top 247 by 247Sports...has been clocked with sub 4.4 time in the 40-yard dash...named to the Super 75 by the Florida Times-Union...earned all-county honors as a junior after logging 83 tackles and an interception as the Knights' starting safety...posted a county-best 33.8-yards-per-return average on kickoffs, including a school-record four touchdowns as a sophomore at Vanguard...chose Florida State over Alabama and Miami (Fla.).

PJ Williams was the first commitment of Florida State’s highly talented 2012 recruiting class. A versatile defender, he entered his freshman year to find a logjam of talent in the defensive backfield. The crowded depth chart kept him mostly on special teams, where he excelled on kickoff and punt coverage squads. He contributed few meaningful snaps in 2012, but did so at the cornerback spot. Playing safety in high school, most recruiting services projected him as a safety in his college career. That was not the case for Jimbo Fisher and the FSU staff, who recruited him as a corner.

Williams has been trained primarily at cornerback during his time at FSU. He has all the physical attributes coaches covet in modern cornerbacks. Williams is not only six foot tall, but has long arms. As receivers grow larger, defensive coaches are putting more of their large athletes at the corner spot. In addition to excellent length, Williams is extremely athletic, having posted very good 40 times and vertical leaps - and his measurements are backed up by his on field speed/leaping.

During his time at FSU, Mark Stoops played two types of corners: boundary and field. Boundary corners are larger, more physical corners who play the boundary (short side of hashes) side of the field. Their size helps them in run support. Xavier Rhodes was an excellent example of a boundary corner. Field corners cover more ground in pass coverage, and size is of less importance, as they are typically less involved in run support. Greg Reid, Nick Waisome are good examples of field corners. FSU will continue to use the field and boundary corner designations, but the players may begin to look more interchangeable as the scheme changes.

Jeremy Pruitt will be implementing a scheme that features more physical, press coverage from all corners -- not just from press monster Xavier Rhodes. One key difference in his and Stoops’ philosophies has already been manifested in cornerback recruiting - Pruitt will pass on a good cover cornerback who does not have the size or length to be a press corner.

PJ Williams is Jeremy Pruitt’s type of corner. At one of his few public appearances, Pruitt noted he wanted all of his defensive backs to be able to play man to man, which Williams can do well. He displayed an ability to use his length in coverage in the spring game, using his long arms to redirect and keep receivers in front of him. He showed his ability to shuffle (which Saban-tree defenses do instead of backpedal -- more on this later in the week) and turn and run with fast receivers like Rashad Greene. The ability to turn and run demonstrated in the spring game was a positive answer to a question many scouts had of Williams coming out of high school.

The FSU defensive backfield remains crowded, but Williams’ health throughout the spring may help his cause. While potential starter Ronald Darby recovered from a sports hernia, Williams took reps with the 1st team defense during much of the spring. Darby, Williams, Nick Waisome and Keelin Smith will battle for the starting spot opposite the one presumed starter in Lamarcus Joyner.

How much playing time can Williams get? It's hard to say. He could play 500 snaps, or 100 snaps. Florida State has at least seven defenders who are almost certainly locks for the NFL if they keep progressing (Joyner, Brooks, Darby, (Karlos) Williams, (P.J.) Williams, Hunter, Ramsey). That makes predicting playing time for any one player entering a new scheme before fall camp a risky proposition indeed.

But PJ Williams has the size, athleticism, and length to be an excellent corner in the 2013 Florida State defense. Jimbo Fisher previously talked him up as a player who could get drafted early, and insiders are very confident that he will be an NFL player if he continues on his current track. Rashad Greene said at the ACC Kickoff that Williams has stood out in 7-on-7 drills during the summer. If Williams can continue his spring and summer success into the fall, the second year cornerback can become a key piece in one of the best secondary units in the country.

For Williams, the question isn't if, but when.