Cal Loses Out On Top Local Recruit

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Ending this year's longest and most closely watched recruiting saga, the top prep football player in the country announced yesterday that he will attend Miami next year.

D.J. Williams, who is rated the nation's best player by most recruiting publications, announced his decision in a press conference held at De La Salle High School in Concord. He had previously considered choosing Cal or Florida State.

"(Miami) was the place I felt was most comfortable and was the best place for me," Williams said. "I feel Miami will be the best place for me to win a championship. It's a great environment and I want to play in big-time games."

He announced his decision exactly one week after the national letter of intent signing period began, although the vast majority of recruits make their decision well before signing period begins.

At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds and with a 4.5 time in the 40-yard dash, Williams is projected at linebacker at the college level. His uncanny football instincts allowed him to make 133 tackles - including 37 for a loss - for De La Salle last season. He also rushed for 1,974 yards and 37 touchdowns on 170 carries as a running back for the Spartans.

Cal had been in the running for Williams since early on in the recruitment process. The Bears' advantage lay in their ties to the De La Salle star. Both true freshman Atari Callen and incoming freshman Tosh Lupoi played with Williams on the Spartans, and Williams visited Callen in Berkeley several times throughout last season.

Williams also considered Cal so he could be close to his family, but the chance to play for a national title and experience life outside the Bay Area outweighed that desire.

"I'll miss my mom and family a lot, but I feel it's time for me to go on and grow up," Williams said.

In all likelihood, the Bears' Achilles' heel with Williams was their 1999 campaign. Cal finished the season with a 4-7 record, and looked nowhere near to competing for the national championship Williams wants.

Williams' decision effectively ends the Bears' 2000 recruiting campaign. Cal head coach Tom Holmoe has allocated 25 of 27 available scholarships, and will likely hold two spots open for former players Omar Bennett and Johnny Jackson, both of whom are applying for reinstatement. The wide receiver and 1998 recruit Bennett failed out of school before the season started, while the 1999 junior transfer Jackson broke an NCAA rule by practicing with the Bears when he was not eligible. He has appealed to the NCAA, and a decision is expected by next week.

Although Holmoe may offer the two remaining scholarships to other athletes if Bennett and Jackson are denied their appeals, his class is largely set. It is currently ranked 44th in the country by Rivalnet, which is a major step down from the 1999 class' top-20 national ranking.


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