Coveted tight end prospect Garrett Williams took a significant step toward his eventual commitment earlier this week. The 4-star recruit declared a top-four list featuring programs throughout the country on Monday, per Orlando Sentinel reporter Chris Hays.
Williams, an Orlando First Academy standout, named Clemson, Stanford, Auburn and Florida State as his favorites from an offer list that includes nearly 30 teams. The 6'4", 220-pound playmaker picked those schools over the likes of Alabama, Florida, Ohio State and South Carolina.
The versatile athlete can be implemented in multiple facets within an offensive scheme. He has high school experience in the offensive backfield and could line up at H-back on occasion.
His ability as a blocker may ultimately enable him to reach the field early in college. Although he is still developing as a receiver, his physical frame provides promise in the passing game.
There's also a chance he'll end up contributing as a defensive end at the next level, depending on his collegiate development.
Now that his nationwide recruitment is focused on four programs, it's an appropriate time to assess each option. Williams aims to announce his decision before May, according to The Sentinel.
Williams has spent plenty of time on campus with the Tigers. Most recently, he attended a junior day at Clemson in February.
"That's a school I've been to more than any other one besides FSU," Williams told The Sentinel.
Clemson captured an Orange Bowl victory over Ohio State in January, representing a significant step forward in the Dabo Swinney era.
"They haven't won it all recently, but I know under Coach Swinney's leadership they will keep going up, and up, and up," Williams said.
A high-powered offensive attack has been key to the program's emergence. Tight end Dwayne Allen enjoyed success with the Tigers and was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft.
Clemson has already assembled an impressive 2015 class, featuring eight commits. Quarterback Tucker Israel, who pledged to the team in February, is also an Orlando product.
The reigning SEC champions quickly gained tremendous offensive momentum under the direction of head coach Gus Malzahn. The Tigers added a pair of incoming tight end prospects on signing day in Chris Laye and Jakell Mitchell.
If both players remain at the position, there will be a youthful crowd at tight end in Auburn. The Tigers also have impressive depth at quarterback, so the offense appears to be in good hands for the foreseeable future.
Williams spent time on campus last summer when he received an offer.
"They have the facilities, it's a beautiful campus, a good school and they have a lot going for them," he said.
Malzahn would like to host Williams again before signing day, but with a commitment possibly looming next month, it remains to be seen how the prospect will approach the remainder of his recruitment process.
Auburn jumped into this race well before Williams' junior season, so a solid rapport is in place.
The Seminoles should be considered a strong favorite moving forward. Tight ends coach and renowned recruiter Tim Brewster has stepped up his pursuit of Williams this winter.
"I haven't had a great relationship with Coach Brewster, but I've been talking to him more the past few weeks and I really like him," Williams explained.
The defending national champs hosted Williams earlier this month for a junior day. The visit served as another reminder of how the program operates.
"Coach [Jimbo] Fisher is an awesome coach, he runs a great program and everything they are doing there is ... wow, just incredible," he said. "Every little detail is to be the best and it's a great environment to succeed."
Williams grew up with Florida State at the forefront of his college football fandom. Dayne Williams, his father, suited up for the Seminoles in the mid-1990s.
Florida State offered Williams after his sophomore season. He expressed excitement about the opportunity when the offer came his way in December 2012.
"This one means a lot because my dad played there," Williams told the Orlando Sentinel at the time. "I wouldn't say one means more than the other, but I have been an FSU fan my whole life, watching them all through growing up."
The Cardinal crashed this party late but have made enough of an impact to remain in the mix. Stanford extended an offer on Feb. 5 and immediately intrigued Williams.
Despite never setting foot in Palo Alto, Calif., the prospect considers the university to be a possible destination.
"It's a school I haven't been to yet but I've heard great things about it," Williams said. "I'm hoping we can get out there in the next few weeks, but I'm not sure yet."
Like many Stanford recruiting targets, academic prowess is a strong selling point for Williams.
"Obviously it's on every list in the country, from Forbes to USA Today, as the No. 1 school in the country for all-around university so that's really big for me because you know you are going to have incredible academics," Williams said.
Stanford tight ends have enjoyed success in recent years. Current NFL players Zach Ertz (Eagles), Coby Fleener (Colts) and Levine Toilolo (Falcons) are a testament to the position's importance within the Cardinal's attack.
Stanford is a late riser in this race for good reason, but it's going to be hard for head coach David Shaw to surpass Florida State and Clemson in terms of a personal relationship with Williams.
He's been a frequent guest of Swinney's at Clemson and has family ties to Florida State. Ultimately, this battle comes down to the Seminoles and Tigers.
Williams was raised in a home that cheered on Florida State every Saturday during football season, and the school is just a few hours away from his hometown. Clemson will keep this close—possibly all the way to national signing day—but the Seminoles will seal the deal and reel in the top target.