Arrow-right Camera

Color Scheme

Subscribe now
University of Washington Huskies Football

Commentary: Is undersized, electric Demond Williams Jr. UW’s QB of future?

Demond Williams Jr. throws a pass during spring practice on April 9 at Husky Stadium in Seattle.  (Kevin Clark/Seattle Times)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

SEATTLE – On Monday morning, I asked Blair Angulo – a West Coast recruiting analyst for 247Sports – if it was difficult to agree on a consensus recruiting ranking for quarterback Demond Williams Jr.

“There was a lot of … healthy debate, you could say,” Angulo said.

Also: The pause said plenty.

Because Williams – who enrolled early at Arizona, then followed coach Jedd Fisch to Washington this winter – presents a perplexing puzzle. The Chandler, Arizona, native and Basha High School alum supplied astronomical numbers – completing 71.4% of his passes and throwing for 10,035 yards with 93 passing touchdowns and just 12 interceptions, plus 2,783 rushing yards and 42 more scores, in four seasons as the starter.

As a junior, he led Basha to its first state title while throwing for 2,339 yards with 28 touchdowns and a single interception. Williams – whose father, Demond Williams Sr., played cornerback for Michigan State – was Arizona’s 6A Premier Player of the Year and earned first-team 6A all-state honors for his efforts.

As a senior, he was named Arizona’s 6A Offensive Player of the Year – completing 76.8% of his passes with 3,250 passing yards, 34 passing touchdowns, three interceptions, 1,136 rushing yards, 7.5 yards per carry and 20 rushing scores.

As an All-American Bowl performer, he impressed – going 15 for 19 (78.9%) for 181 yards and two touchdowns against the nation’s premier prep players.

And yet, Williams earned a (relatively) modest four-star ranking from 247Sports, regarded as the No. 19 quarterback in his class. Despite his strong arm, elusive legs and four consecutive seasons of impressive tape, Williams arrived at Washington with plenty to prove.

It’s not the potential. It’s the package.

Williams was listed at 5-foot-9 and 174 pounds as a prep player, and measures 5-11 and 185 on the Huskies’ spring roster. His actual height and weight may sit somewhere in between.

He’s not the prototypical 6-4, 210-pound passer who previously permeated draft boards.

But will Williams’ talent (and durability) translate to the FBS level?

How about the Big Ten?

“I’m really curious what his style is going to look like in the Big Ten, because we always thought it would lend itself well to the Big 12, which is where he was headed to play with Arizona,” Angulo said of the former Arizona and Ole Miss commit. “It’s going to be a different ballgame now. You’re going to be getting tackled by bigger dudes. There’s limited possessions, so there’s more time consciousness in terms of holding the football and making sure you’re making the most of every possession.

“So, I think his style of play is going to be really intriguing to monitor, especially with what Jedd Fisch did with Noah Fifita at Arizona and whether they follow that same blueprint with a player like Demond – who has all the arm talent to make plays with his arm, but I think his calling card is going to be what he does with his legs. So how will that impact the Big Ten Conference? How will opposing defenses try to limit him? It’s going to be one of the more fascinating things for us to watch here in the next three or four years.”

Speaking of Fifita – the 5-11, 194-pound quarterback completed 72.4% of his passes and threw for 2,869 yards with 25 passing touchdowns and six interceptions (while earning Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year) in nine starts at Arizona under Fisch last fall.

When asked Tuesday if Fifita presents a fair comparison, Williams said: “I would say so. He’s a great quarterback. Being compared to anybody like that is an honor. I feel like I’m just a little bit more athletically gifted, as far as being able to run and maneuver.”

Which could provide excitement … or concern. Because Williams’ skill set is more dependent on mobility than Fifita’s, he’ll likely expose himself to a higher number of hits. But the recent success of Russell Wilson (5-11, 215), Kyler Murray (5-10, 207), Bryce Young (5-10, 204) and more prove that quarterback production can spring from atypical packages.

Schemes are also evolving to maximize more modest frames.

“We still obviously prefer the taller quarterback, because from the grand scheme of things that’s the player that’s going to have the most success on the next level,” Angulo said. “But there are outliers now – even a Bryce Young, who just went No. 1 overall (in the 2023 NFL draft). There is now an avenue, especially with how offenses have shifted in the NFL to mimic more of what the college game can do with some of these other quarterbacks that don’t have the size.”

To get a peek at Williams, Husky fans may have to wait. Mississippi State senior transfer Will Rogers remains the assumed starter this season, while Williams and fellow four-star freshman Dermaricus Davis compete for the backup job. The 6-5, 187-pound Davis is an intriguing prospect as well, a more prototypical passer with scrambling ability.

But Williams – who has received the majority of backup reps this spring – is the most intriguing athlete of any Husky QB … and the most maddening to project.

“When you have the height that he has, you have to be able to make up for it in other areas, and you have to be special in some of those other facets of the game,” Angulo said. “He’s quick. He’s elusive. He’s creative. He makes plays with his legs, but he’s also smart enough to know when he needs to throw the ball away or when he can buy himself that extra second to sidestep pressure and make a throw downfield. So, he has a lot of that stuff that maybe makes us forget how small he is.”

Can this comparably “small” signal caller make a BIG impact?

Cue the … healthy debate.