May 3, 2008

Williams picks Vols, tradition

Toney Williams had a handful of football scholarship offers and plenty of other schools showing interest. In the end, the bruising tailback from Milton High School (Alpharetta, Ga.) opted for an eventual return home when he verbally committed to the University of Tennessee on Saturday.

"I'm originally from Tennessee," said the 6-foot-1, 229-pounder who lived 13 years in the Volunteer State before moving with his family to the Atlanta suburbs. "I liked the coaches a lot. The facilities were great. And so was the environment."

Already with a broad frame that helped him punish opposing defenses for nearly 1,000 rushing yards last season as a junior, Williams was familiar enough with the Volunteers program to know bigger, physical backs have thrived before at UT. Williams cites his power and vision as key strengths; already he bench-presses 330 pounds, squats 475 and power-cleans 305.

"I like the tradition at Tennessee and the tradition that Tennessee has for great running backs," said Williams, who occasionally trains at the same Atlanta-area facility as former Vol Jamal Lewis. "… It kind of makes me feel more confident because Jamal Lewis was a big back and Tennessee has had success with big backs.

"And I like the academic people a lot. It's hard to explain, but I just really felt comfortable when I was there."

Williams made two unofficial visits to Knoxville this spring, including stopping by to meet with members of the Vols' coaching staff while en route to Kentucky's spring game last month. The Wildcats joined Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, North Carolina State and Rutgers as among the other schools that tendered offers.

Williams immediately clicked with UT's coaches, particularly tailbacks coach Stan Drayton and receivers coach Latrell Scott, who received Williams' commitment and has been working tirelessly to help the Vols get back in the fertile Atlanta-area recruiting ground.

"I just felt comfortable with it and with the coaches," Williams said of his choosing Tennessee and rapport with the staff. "Not even about football, I just felt like with those coaches I can talk to them about anything."

Williams also didn't want anything to distract from his upcoming senior season.

"I just feel free now," he said. "I just feel like now I can focus on high school and trying to make the playoffs next year. I can focus on high school and getting ready for Tennessee."

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