After what we saw in the Music City Bowl, landing JUCO cornerback Desmond Williams looks like an even bigger deal now. Tennessee was torched by a short-handed Purdue offense, routinely giving up the big play down the field. Though Tennessee was short-handed themselves, missing Alontae Taylor, Brandon Turnage and Kenneth George, it was a glimpse of a potential issue for the 2022 season.
While Tennessee likely dips into the portal to add another contributor, they did add a couple of reinforcements during the early signing period. Desmond Williams was one of those additions, as Tennessee found a late win on the trail at a key position of need.
The JUCO cornerback snagged 13 interceptions during his JUCO career, proving to be a true ballhawk. He also proved himself as a special teams ace, taking both a kick and punt return back for a touchdown.
“Shoot, one of the first things that I watched was his all-play cut-up — what he was doing on special teams, dynamic playmaker,” Josh Heupel said of his newest cornerback. “Really natural and fluid. Great hands. Then you see him on the defensive side of the football, smooth in transition, really confident. The 50-50 ball, he’s very patient and calm with.”
Williams is the 8th ranked player in the JUCO ranks in the 2021 class, per 247Sports. Tennessee beat out West Virginia and Mississippi State in December after each sent out offers in November.
With Alontae Taylor and Theo Jackson officially leaving, there are two key spots available in the Tennessee secondary. Kamal Hadden and Warren Burrell got the go in the bowl game, with De’Shawn Rucker also getting plenty of run. The Volunteers were lacking depth, and it obviously showed.
Now Williams enters the picture, set to compete immediately with the team in the spring.
“He’s a super athletic kid and you meet him and you fall in love with who he is as a person, too, his ability to communicate and be real with you,” Heupel said. “Extremely confident in who he is and very excited to have him as part of our program.”
Tennessee also signed three-star prospect Christian Harrison in the 2021 cycle. It’s tough to get a true projection of what we can expect at this position for 2022, considering the fluidity of the transfer portal era. But I think it’s a fair assumption to say that Williams will be a factor in this positional battle throughout both camp sessions.