MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia freshman wide receiver Jarel Williams isn’t all that far removed from the young campers he interacted with earlier this week at the Country Roads Trust Football camp for elementary and middle school players. Williams, who has just wrapped up his first semester at WVU after enrolling early and participating in the Mountaineer football team’s 2022 spring practices, recalled similar events from his hometown of Saraland, Alabama.
“I love to see the smile on the kids’ faces, having fun,” he said of the time he and other members of the Mountaineer offensive unit spent with a large group of active youngsters at the Mylan Park field. “I always want to come participate in things like this. Back home, we had this same type of event, where we could see the older players, run around and have some fun and learn some skills.”
Williams recalled those with a smile, and clearly enjoyed being able to return the favor to a new generation of youngsters. Along the way, he and his teammates tried to sneak in a bit of instruction, too, as they spent the first hour of camp running through drills before moving on to some free-flowing games and a post-practice session of sno-cones, autographs and a water balloon battle.
“Little footwork drills, things they can do at home, we can help them pick those up and get better,” said Williams, who understands the ways in which teaching can be made to be fun on the field.
He’s been trying to do the same thing during his first few months at WVU, where he earned some notice during the spring session with a few standout catches and consistent work.
“It’s definitely a big change in the speed of the game and the physicality, and I think if I can pick that up I will be good,” he said of the jump from high school to college. “I really wanted to work my way into the rotation this spring, and get in there where I could possibly play down the road this season, and get better.”
Coming off a senior season at Saraland where he had 60 catches for 883 yards and 13 scores, he has demonstrated no problem making an impact in his games. Over three seasons for the Spartans, he totaled 132 grabs for 2,067 yards and 29 scores, and while he knows that such numbers won’t be on his resume early in his career at West Virginia, he has been doing everything he can to get on the field as a freshman.
The well-spoken Alabamian has also taken advantage of his status as the only freshman newcomer in the wide receiver room.
“Being the only incoming freshman receiver this spring, I kind of took [things] in from all of the (receivers) at one time,” he explained, which ran counter to the usual procedure where every newcomer or freshman gets an assigned mentor. “Sam (James), Bryce (Ford-Wheaton), KP (Kaden Prather), Graeson (Malashevich), Reese (Smith), all of them. I appreciate that.”
While WVU’s receiver roster does have some familiar names, only Ford-Wheaton and James return as proven pass catchers. They teamed up for 64 catches and 1,080 yards in 2021, but all of the other returning wideouts combined for just 25 receptions for 307 yards. They’ll certainly be counted on to improve on those numbers, but there is clearly room for Williams to make his own early mark. And if he does, he’s likely to have just the same kind of fun that he did on the camp fields.