AUBURN, Ala. — It’s rare that one player can come in and change the complexion of an entire offense.
D’haquille Williams isn’t just any player, though. Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing 215 pounds — as well as owning a 4.4 time in the 40-yard dash — Williams possesses a rare blend of size and speed. Those attributes helped make him the top junior college prospect in the country regardless of position. On Wednesday, the ultra-talented receiver signed with Auburn.
And in doing so, Williams may have altered the way the Tigers’ offense — which boasts the top rushing attack in the FBS this season at 335.7 yards per game — operates in 2014.
“If you look back, we’ve had years where we’ve thrown it a lot, and we are going to get more and more balanced next year,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Wednesday. “Any time you’ve got a dynamic guy like him coming, that’s a really good thing.”
Williams was a junior college All-American last year and an honorable mention this year after catching 51 passes for 733 yards and nine touchdowns in just nine games. The Louisiana native originally committed to LSU but changed his mind during the summer and pledged to Auburn.
His official signing didn’t surprise Nick Marshall. Auburn’s quarterback met Williams when the prospect came on an official visit earlier this year.
After being on hand for the Tigers’ victory in the Iron Bowl, it was a done deal.
“After the Alabama game, he told me he's going to be here,” Marshall said. “We're just blessed to have him.”
Malzahn couldn’t contain his excitement, either, as he ticked off Williams’ myriad physical gifts.
“He is a dynamic player that can run, catch and do all of the things it takes to be a great receiver,” he said.
Sammie Coates said he hasn’t had a chance to converse with Williams yet, but noted that will change soon enough. The sophomore wideout who has been Marshall’s favorite target this season didn’t feel threatened by the addition of Williams — quite the opposite.
As good as this season has been for Coates — leading the team in receptions (38), receiving yards (841) and receiving touchdowns (eight) — he believes the next two years could be even better thanks to Williams’ arrival.
“To bring in another talented guy is going to be real big,” he said. “It’s going to be awesome to have another receiver that’s a big-time playmaker. It makes everything easier.”
Williams wasn’t the only highly-regarded JUCO signee Auburn inked on Wednesday, though. The Tigers also signed Williams’ teammate at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College — four-star safety Derrick Moncrief — as well as center Xavier Dampeer, a three-star recruit who played at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson, Miss.
Auburn’s man in charge was already well-aware what both players could bring to the table.
“Xavier Dampeer from Copiah-Lincoln has the ability to play center and guard. He is a big strong kid,” Malzahn said. “Derrick Moncrief is a big guy that can tackle and has good cover skills.”
Malzahn was particularly pleased to sign Moncrief, who will help address a safety position lacking able bodies and set to lose a pair of seniors in Ryan Smith and Ryan White.
“Obviously we are very thin at the safety position,” he said. “That will be big in the spring and provide us depth.”
Auburn added one more highly-touted prospect from the 2014 class later in the day, as DaVonte Lambert sent in his letter from Georgia Military College. Formerly pledged to Tennessee, the four-star defensive end flipped to Auburn on Wednesday.
With four more players now on board, the Tigers have 20 players committed for their 2014 recruiting efforts. Auburn’s class is ranked in the top 10 by the three major recruiting services, with 247Sports slotting it at No. 6 — a four-spot improvement thanks to its quartet of Wednesday signings — with Rivals putting it at No. 8 and Scout pegging it at No. 10.