Mario Williams, a guy who should be thinking about prom rather than digesting a playbook right now, continues to turn heads at spring practice for Oklahoma.
Ranked the No. 24-overall player in the final SI99 by Sports Illustrated All-American, the expectations were always going to be high on the 5-foot-9 wide receiver from Plant City, FL. But the reviews from the Sooners so far say that he’s living up to his billing, and could quickly be making plays on Saturdays.
“He’s got a chance to have an impact,” co-offensive coordinator and inside receivers coach Cale Gundy said during a Zoom press conference on Wednesday. “One of the fastest players on our side of the ball. He loves to compete. He loves to practice. He loves to play ball. He’s a good player. He’s an intelligent young man.”
His explosiveness off the ball has already impressed his quarterback, Spencer Rattler, who can’t wait to see him flying vertically down the field.
“He’s got some growth to do, but he’s going to get off the ball, he’s going to get open and catch the ball down the field,” Rattler said. “That’s what we’ll use him for. He’ll be a good player for our offense as well.”
If he can continue to perform in practice, Williams should give himself a chance to carve out a role come September. Lincoln Riley kicked off spring practice by challenging the wide receivers to be better, declaring there was an open competition across the wide receiver room.
Though incredibly talented, the unit led the country in dropped touchdowns a year ago, often coming at crucial times when the Sooners were trying to put away a game early.
Williams’ ability to stretch the field could be a back-breaker for opposing teams, because if he gets behind the defense, he is almost impossible to overthrow, Gundy said.
“He’s got speed. We were talking out there today and I made a comment on the headsets that, ‘You typically don’t see balls overthrown to the real fast guys’,” he said. “They have a way to go attack the ball.”
The Floridian doesn’t just project as a one-trick pony either. His skillset will allow Riley to use him in a variety of ways, affording Williams plenty of opportunity to get onto the field this fall.
“There’s an opportunity for him to help us in the return game somewhere, especially in special teams,” Gundy said. “The opportunity for him to be out there and be able to stretch the field – and again, as you guys have seen with all of our wide receivers – our guys are going to play inside, they are going to play outside.”
Eyes will be on Williams to see what he does in his first chance to impress in front of fans at Saturday’s spring game.
But even if the freshman wideout doesn’t explode on Saturday, Gundy said he still has a great attitude about how he approaches practice every single day, which makes him easy to work with.
“Besides the football side of it, he comes out there every day and loves to compete,” he said. “He always has a smile on his face. He loves football. He loves competition.
“He loves football and I’m glad he’s here with us.”