Redshirt sophomore Scooby Williams was a four-star edge rusher out of Birmingham, Alabama in the 2021 recruiting class, committing to Florida over the Auburn Tigers. Williams played both edge rusher and linebacker early on in his Gators career but has found a home at linebacker in the 2023 season.
“I feel like it’s not about where you start but where you end up,” Williams said during Wednesday’s press conference. “You’ve gotta enjoy the process. Football is just a game it’s not the endpoint. It’s a journey and I fell in love with the journey. No matter what happen in-between, I love football. Wherever I ended up that’s where I was gonna play.”
After logging just 157 snaps in his first two seasons at Florida, Williams earned a starting spot on Austin Armstrong’s defense, logging 63 snaps through two games of the 2023 season, the 5th most on the Gators’ defense.
“The past two years when I wasn’t playing, when I first got here one of my coaches just told me to keep my head down and work and learn from those guys because there’s a lot I did learn from Ventrell and Burney and I’m using those same things today. I want to thank those guys for being great role models and great leaders to the younger players, as well as myself,” Williams said.
Florida added transfer linebackers Teradja Mitchell, Mannie Nunnery, and Deuce Spurlock in the offseason, making the path for pathing time cloudy for the third-year linebacker. With a great spring and fall camp, Williams earned his way into a prominent role.
“I feel like I took a major step this offseason mainly because the time I put in with my coaches, my strength staff, and just me, myself in general,” Williams said. “In the film room learning tendencies on offense and being with my coaches helps a lot on the field and off the field. I feel like I made that step this offseason.”
The transition from edge to linebacker took time to learn as it’s a much more complex position, according to coach Billy Napier.
“This guy was an edge player. So early in his career you are kind of like wanting to see him do more. I can remember, Scooby and I had a lot of heart to hearts, just like ‘hey, let’s go,'” Napier said on Williams’ transition to linebacker. “The reality is, the way I say it is when you are an edge player you’re a one eye player, you see the game through one eye essentially. Now you move in there on the inside and now I’ve got to see the game with two eyes, and there’s a lot more decision making, football matters, eye discipline matters, not to mention the communication aspect, and then the coverage component. So I think Scooby has done a good job year two in the system, Coach Bateman’s done a good job with him. He was an edge player that moved inside, there was a transition there, but man, he’s got all the traits you’re looking for and I’m really proud of him.”
Williams noted that the transition to linebacker was more mental than physical.
“For me I feel like it’s more mental. If you know what you’re doing you can go out there an execute faster,” Williams said.
“At Florida we talk about being a 4D player and I feel like I’m making that progress to being a 4D player,” Williams added. “I’m not saying I’m there yet because there’s always work to do but being able to understand what the guy beside you, the guy in front of you and behind you is doing is more important that knowing just what you gotta do yourself. I feel like that was the biggest step for me in being a 4D player. I’m still working on that today.”
Through two games, Williams has tallied five tackles (2 solo), one QB hurry, and one sack. Williams earned his first career sack and tackle for loss against McNeese State in week two. In nine pressure snaps, Williams has posted a pressure grade of 69.9, the second highest on the Gators’ defense.
The speedy 6-2, 230-pound linebacker will look to build on his impressive start to the 2023 as the Gators enter SEC play this weekend.