Wednesday, April 25, 2012 | 2:05 a.m.
The college football recruiting of Durango High rising senior running back and defensive back Marcus Williams could be considered a mystery.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Williams bested nearly 1,300 other recruits in early April by recording the highest score at the Nike Football SPARQ Combine in Long Beach, Calif. The SPARQ rating system — which uses times in the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuffle, knelling ball toss and vertical jump — is one of the criteria used by college coaches in evaluating recruits. SPARQ is an acronym for speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness.
Williams had the top 40-yard dash time (4.43 seconds) and vertical jump (39.4 inches) to record the highest rating of the day at 128.91 points. The SPARQ tour has continued to other cities, and Williams’ score still ranks as one of the best nationally, even better than those recruits with multiple recruiting stars next to their names on evaluating websites.
That’s primarily because he played just three games last year for Durango after transferring from perennial power Bishop Gorman. He was a reserve as a sophomore at Gorman in 2010, carrying the ball 14 times in four games before leaving the school. Per transfer rules, he had to wait until the fifth week last fall to be eligible.
“It was painful sitting out because I knew I could have helped my team,” said Williams, who also had the second-best 20-yard shuffle time of 4.06 seconds. “But I had to get through and wait my turn. I’m happy here. I love this place.”
Williams has been in contact with schools such as Arizona State, where he unofficially visited last week, and says the general consensus is scholarships won’t be offered until he shows his ability on the field in the opening weeks of the season. If Williams had a complete junior season of game film for coaches to analyze, he likely would have a list of suitors. He’s been in contact with Penn State, Nebraska, UCLA and Arizona, among others.
In seven varsity games in two years, Williams has 313 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 53 attempts. That’s not enough of a sample size for college coaches to see if his combine times translates to Friday nights, or the next level.
“They want (more) game film,” Durango coach Matt Gerber said. “They want me to let them know what I think of the kid. Obviously, with the interactions I’ve had with him, he’s a fantastic kid. His times stand out for themselves. The 4.43 in the 40 is helping him get a lot of attention.
“He has to put it together in the season, though. He didn’t have a lot of opportunity last year and is going to have to have a good senior year. It was certainly a good starting point with the combine.”
Williams rushed for 237 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries last year against Sierra Vista in his best game of the year. He also scored twice against Pahrump Valley and had a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Desert Oasis.
Now, he’ll have to duplicate those efforts to earn a spot at the next level.
“I’m just happy and relieved that I have a full season ahead of me,” Williams said. “I just need to stay relaxed and do what I do best, and that’s play football.”
Williams is doing his part to become a major recruit.
He is part of the Durango track team, works out multiple times each week at Phase One Sports — a training center primarily for high school athletes — and even sent out recruiting tapes to coaches. It’s rare for a prospect with his documented talent to need to send out a recruiting tape, but after transferring from Gorman, where college coaches regularly visited campus, Williams is trying everything to get on the recruiting radar.
Gerber, who became Durango’s next coach last month, plans on showcasing Williams’ talent.
“I would be remiss to say I didn’t know he was here when I applied for the job,” Gerber said. “It was pretty obvious they had some talent over here, and that is one of the reasons why I wanted to come here.”