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What 4-star WR CJ Williams picking Notre Dame over Texas means for the Longhorns

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The Longhorns got the Mater Dei standout to campus in June, but it wasn’t enough to win out over the Fighting Irish.

CJ Williams
247Sports

On Sunday, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei wide receiver CJ Williams committed to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish over the Texas Longhorns and three other finalists on CBS Sports HQ.

Williams announced his decision after narrowing his list to Alabama, Notre Dame, Stanford, Texas, and USC last month. When the dead period lifted in June following the long pause due to the pandemic, the 6’2, 193-pounder took official visits to Notre Dame, Ohio State, Stanford, and Texas, as well as an unofficial visit to USC.

Coming out of the official visit that Williams took to Texas, the Horns made an impression and were seemingly well positioned to capitalize on head coach Steve Sarkisian’s ties to California, especially Mater Dei, where his son plays football.

“Texas was my first visit and that blew me away. It was a lot of things that stood out, not just football but I really liked coach Sark’s message and what he’s trying to build. I know he’s going to have a great offense because he’s a great offensive mind and you saw what he did at Bama,” Williams told 247Sports.

“What I liked was how he said they’re trying to bring more high-character guys and wants me to be a part of that. I’m seeing it in who they’re recruiting and obviously they have Maalik (Murphy) there now who’s a great guy, a great friend, and a great player so I loved that trip.”

Unfortunately, Williams also noted the special feeling he experienced when he arrived on campus in South Bend lasted the entire trip and was the only school that made him feel that way.

So the decision by Williams wasn’t exactly a surprise — on Friday, all five 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions favored the Fighting Irish.

For the Longhorns, it means another high-profile miss for Sarkisian and his staff coming at a position where Texas only has one commitment. Williams was also one of the only bigger-bodied outside wide receivers position coach Andre Coleman was recruiting since Sarkisian arrived.

Without any other clear targets who fit that mold, Texas remains in pursuit of a handful of smaller wide receivers who look more like the top targets from Sarkisian’s days at Alabama, including former commit Evan Stewart, who took an official visit to Austin back in June.

But Stewart also visited Florida that month and the Gators are rapidly emerging as a contender, including landing a medium-confidence Crystal Ball prediction from a Florida insider at the end of July, the first prediction since his decommitment from Texas in March.

Whether the Longhorns have a chance at landing a recommitment from Stewart may depend in large part on what Sarkisian and his offense can accomplish on the field this fall.

Texas also remains in the mix for Panhandle speedster Brenen Thompson and Louisiana product Shazz Preston, both of whom visited Austin during June. As with every highly-touted prospect from the Boot, convincing Preston to leave the state is going to be a difficult task, but the Horns have made moves with Thompson in recent months.

Less clear is whether Texas has a chance with St. Louis product Kevin Coleman, a consensus five-star prospect ranked No. 20 in the 2022 recruiting class, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Coleman didn’t take any official visits in June, choosing instead to take unofficial trips to Missouri and Florida State, so there could be plenty of movement in his recruitment when he does take those official visits in the fall. Right now, though, it would be a surprise if Texas landed one of them, though the Horns were among the eight schools that made his last cut in January.

If Texas can land two wide receivers from the group that includes Stewart, Thompson, and Preston, consider the class a success, so there’s still plenty of room a positive finish at the position. Anything short of that outcome would register as a disappointment.