The 2010 Senior Bowl is in the books, leaving in its wake a morphed landscape for a number of future NFL hopefuls.
The game, a 31-13 victory by the North squad, featured a number of highlights and lowlights, from the struggles of Florida QB Tim Tebow to solid performances by Central Michigan QB Dan Lefevour (5-10, 97 yds, 1 TD), Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham and Cincinnati’s wide receiver Mardy Gilyard (5 catches, 102 yds, 1 TD).
In the end, it was Brandon Graham that won the game’s MVP, but when searching from north to south – down the list of potential future draftees – no player deserves to be named breakout performer more than Tulane’s WR Jeremy Williams.
Yes, that’s the Tulane Green Wave – Conference USA’s latest bottom-feeder – a team that posted just five victories (1-7 in conference during both 2008 and 2009) combined over the last two seasons.
Yes, the same Tulane team that features only a handful of current NFL offensive talents – most notably the quartet of Roydell Williams, Matt Forte J.P. Losman and Mewelde Moore. With exception to Forte’s rookie season with the Chicago Bears, this quartet hasn’t exactly lit up the NFL scoreboards over recent years.
Enter Jeremy Williams – the 6’1” 205 pound wide receiver – who himself likely carries some baggage that NFL scouts likely took note of previous to the Senior Bowl.
At first, Williams had issues holding on to the ball, but his talent always pushed him back into Tulane’s lineup. But more importantly, Williams has sustained two knee injuries during his playing career, most recently in 2008, when he suffered a broken hand and season ending knee injury after just five games. Before he went down, Williams had put up 437 yards and 5 TD’s, while averaging 16.2 yards per catch.
In 2007, Wiliams led the Green Wave with 46 catches and 773 yards, which cracked Conference USA’s top ten in yards receiving per game.
Still, heading into the Senior Bowl, It’s likely that most people hadn’t even heard of Williams. In fact, in his yearly College Football preview, Phil Steele didn’t have Williams ranked among his top 72 receivers in the country, when other Senior Bowl standouts like Mardy Gilyard cracked his top ten.
The typical football fan tends to fall in love with the big name players that play for the big name schools. But some of the better receivers in history played for smaller schools: Jerry Rice with Mississippi Valley State, Terrell Owens with Tennessee-Chattanooga and so on. Now that’s not to say that Williams is or ever will be anywhere in that league, but it’s more the point of where each showed that playing for a small school simply doesn’t matter.
On a South squad that featured power conference representatives such as Tim Tebow (Florida), Ben Tate (Auburn), Stafon Johnson (USC), Javier Arenas (Alabama) and Dexter McCluster (Ole Miss), it may come as quite a surprise to hear that Williams in fact led the team in both rushing and receiving – specifically his one carry for 27 yards and six catches for 83 yards.
Williams should have improved his stock for a number of reasons. He showed that his talents could potentially fit in as a weapon for a Wildcat system, as his lone carry was an end-around play that broke for a big gain. On top of that, he showed heads-up instincts by coming back to a jump ball and making a key catch, while also successfully blocking a defender at the same time.
The 110 all-purpose yards for the Tulane senior equals a great day – not only due to taking on a number of the game’s best seniors, but also while fighting for consistent playing time. Wiliams’ day was second only to Cincinnati’s Gilyard, who added 50+ return yards to his 100-yard receiving day.
All in all, call it a breakout performance by Jeremy Williams, and one that he showed an ability to be a playmaker… an ability to run well on previously injured knees… and an ability to catch contested balls and run well-timed routes.
There will still likely be a few question marks about Williams as a pro – like there are with just about anyone – as the NFL Draft is an inexact science.
But in the end, on this day, Jeremy Williams can and should be considered the top offensive standout – and should move up a number of draft boards come April.