NFLPA Collegiate Bowl: Williams impressing scouts

By: Matt Jones
Published: Friday, January 19, 2018
Arkansas running back David Williams carries the ball during a game against New Mexico State on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas running back David Williams carries the ball during a game against New Mexico State on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Fayetteville.

— David Williams had a breakout performance in his final game at Arkansas, totaling 113 yards of offense and 3 touchdowns on 13 touches against Missouri.

Williams, who spent only one year with the Razorbacks after transferring from South Carolina via the graduate transfer rule, was not considered much of a draft prospect at the time, but that perception is changing after a strong showing during practices leading up to this weekend's NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

At 6-0 3/8 and 224 pounds, Williams is the biggest of eight backs at this week's all-star game. He also has the biggest hands at 9-0 5/8.

Rick Serritella, an analyst for NFLDraftBible.com, came away impressed after a week of evaluating Williams.

"He was moving around the field as quick as any running back out there," Serritella said. "I spoke to a couple of scouts who think he could be a late-round sleeper, an under-the-radar guy. He could be a guy who tests better than people expect and boosts his draft stock leading up to the draft."

Serritetlla used terms like "sneaky quickness" to describe Williams. He also was impressed by the running back's power, vision and patience.

"I like how this guy is always moving forward, always propelling, even after the contact," Serritella said. "He'll pick up an extra yard or two because he's always falling forward, and with his size that is going to appeal to NFL scouts.

"He showed some speed to get around the edge. With his skills, this is a good looking running back. I think running back is one of the deeper classes this year, so it may be tough for him to get drafted, but I have a feeling whether it's a late Day 3 (pick) or a priority free agent, I think this guy has all the things you look for at the next level. I think teams are going to want to work with him because of his size, quickness and athleticism."

Another plus, Serritella said, was Williams' ability to catch the ball from his running back position. That was a trait he showed at times throughout his only season at Arkansas, with an average of 17.1 yards per catch. In the finale against Missouri, Williams had a pair of receptions for 38 yards, including an impressive 24-yard score early in the fourth quarter that gave the Razorbacks the lead.

"He had some capable hands throughout the week and did a good job catching the ball out of the backfield," Serritella said.

"The practice is really where you make your money and you gain separation. You find out who the real prospects are, especially in the one-on-one drills and that's where I think David Williams did good catching the ball out of the backfield against coverage."

Allen good and bad

While Williams measured as the biggest running back at the event, quarterback Austin Allen was the smallest of the six at his position.

Allen measured at 6-0 5/8, 212 pounds this week. His hands measured at 9 inches, the cutoff for NFL teams to consider a quarterback, Serritella said.

Allen is expected to start for the National Team on Saturday. He has spent the week working with former St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz and NFL journeyman quarterback Jon Kitna.

Serritella said Kitna has focused on Allen's mechanics of setting his feet and his release time.

"The one thing I wanted to see a better transition is his leg drive - shifting his back foot to his front foot and having the lower body in sync with his upper body," Serritella said of Allen.

"Even when he wasn't going against the live pass rush, the defensive coordinator on the other side was yelling out what I was thinking: 'That's a sack!' He's got to get rid of the ball quicker. I think part of that might have been because he was trying to refine his mechanics and maybe thinking a little too much, and maybe that was why he was holding on to the football too long.

"I thought he did a good job as the week went on of kind of improving those mechanics."

Allen said scouts have been interested in his shoulder. Allen missed four games last season because of an injury he suffered during the second half of a game against South Carolina on Oct. 7. He did not return to the lineup until a Nov. 11 game at LSU.

"I think I've been throwing the ball really well for the most part this week," Allen said. "(Scouts) have commented on how my shoulder looks better and how the ball is coming out.

"It feels just as good as it did before the injury. I'm feeling pretty good right now."

Serritella said Allen's passes looked best in the "short to intermediate" range, but he needs to complete more of his passes.

"He's at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl for a reason and not the Senior Bowl or (East-West) Shrine Game, and I think that's because of accuracy concerns," Serritella said. "That's the one area he needs to show off."

One area where Allen has shown off, Serritella said, is in his command of a pro-style offense, variations of which he ran for all five seasons at Arkansas.

"I thought he felt most comfortable playing under center, taking those three-, five-, seven-step dropbacks," Serritella said. "You could tell he has experience playing in a pro-style system. His footwork was pretty good of going through the backpedals.

"He looks the part and comfortable in the pro-style system. He has been taking charge of the drills and is the first one up, and he looks comfortable doing that. He's got the leadership skills.

"I think that's something that bodes well for his draft stock. It's funny because some of these quarterbacks never have gotten under center at all."

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Thursday that Allen most likely will go undrafted and sign as a free agent. Serritella wasn't as quick to dismiss Allen's chances of a late-round call.

"Once you get to Day 3, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder," Serritella said. "Austin is a guy who can make all the throws, he just needs to hone it in, be more consistent and refine his skill set. Once he gets the lower body and upper body working, it will help him get a quicker release.

"He does a great job looking off defenders; he'll go through his progressions, then turn his eyes to the opposite field and hit his target. He misleads the defenders."

Allen said he has spoken to a representative of all 32 NFL teams this week.

"Some teams draw up plays and ask what you know about the defense and how you'll exploit the defense," Allen said.

"Talking with scouts, most of them said that whether draft or free agency, I'll get my opportunity to get in a camp. Hopefully I do get my opportunity. I'm looking for that one team that believes in me."

Notables

-Cornerback Henre' Toliver will join Williams and Allen on the National team. Toliver measured 6-0 1/8, 184 pounds with 9-inch hands and 30 1/2-inch arms. Allen's arm size was 30 3/4 inches and Williams' arm size was 30 1/8 inches.

-Allen said he expects to learn by the end of the month whether he will be invited to the NFL Scouting Combine that runs March 2-5 in Indianapolis. Allen said he expects to go through Pro Day at Arkansas sometime in early April.

-Allen will spend the months leading up to the draft training in Miami with noted quarterback coach Ken Mastrole. Allen has signed with agents Shawn O'Dare and Alex Gabilla out of Miami.

-Allen said this week was his first trip to the iconic Rose Bowl. "It's unbelievable," he said. "You're driving through the mountains and you kind of go down a hill. The next thing you know you see the Rose Bowl sign and it's just surrounded by these mountains. You walk through the locker room and it's just unbelievable, then go on the field and it is perfectly green. It's a special place."

-Williams, Allen and Toliver make up half of the former Arkansas players competing in all-star games this month. Linebacker Dwayne Eugene and long snapper Robert Decker were on the rosters in the Tropical Bowl last week in Daytona Beach, Fla., and center Frank Ragnow is on the roster for the Senior Bowl on Jan. 27 in Mobile, Ala.

-The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. on Saturday and be televised by FS1.

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