Jasper Williams

East Mississippi Community College linebacker Jasper Williams committed to UL.

The way East Mississippi Community College linebacker Jasper Williams sees it, if there’s ever a time to consider the old "bird in hand" approach, it’s now.

Not able to visit any prospective campus sites due to the coronavirus shutdown, the former Grenada High standout wasn’t about to wait too long on an offer he really liked.

So when the UL Ragin’ Cajuns invited him, Williams delivered a verbal commitment.

“I mainly committed right now because with all of this virus stuff going on, you don’t know what’s going to happen with the season,” Williams said. “So I’m just trying to get me a spot somewhere just in case something goes wrong with the season and things don’t go as planned.”

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound speed linebacker also liked the fit.

“The coach (assistant coach Austin Armstrong) is really cool,” Williams said. “They sent me videos of the facility and the weightroom and pictures of the campus. Yes, I think I have a pretty good idea about the program.”

Also offering Williams are Akron, Arkansas State, Liberty and UL-Monroe.

“They (UL coaches) said I best fit their defense,” he said. “They said they liked my speed and my size. I’d say my strength is my speed and getting to the ball faster than most linebackers. Most linebackers are pretty big and huge and I’m not all that big. I can run a little more than certain linebackers.”

Williams was a qualifier out of high school. He said he waited too long on his only Division I offer in ULM and the spot was filled, so he went the junior college route.

“I feel like I improved in movement and drops and run fits and the mental side — better understanding of the game,” Williams said of his freshman season.

He collected 51 tackles, 1½ sacks and two forced fumbles his freshman season.

EMCC linebackers coach Nestor Puertas said Williams made quite a first impression last fall.

“He’s exactly like you’d want them to look,” Puertas said. “He can run. He can do it all. He can handle everything from the mental aspect, he’s a great kid — comes from a good family, a humble background — you don’t have to worry about him on or off the field. I’m fortunate to have somebody like him that you don’t have to worry about.

“You just have to coach him up, get him in the right spot and just watch him play ball.”

Puertas said Williams was a three-down linebacker for him. Furthermore, because of injuries last fall, Williams had to play all three linebacker spots at some point during the season.

“He’s a three-down player, but when it gets to third down, we have a speed package that comes on and we do get him on the edge — either just stand him up there or move him there and get him to rush off the edge,” Puertas explained.

“Toward the end of the season, he got real comfortable at 'Sam.' We also let him play 'Mike.' He can set the front and he knows which way the coverages are going to roll. He can definitely do all of that stuff.”

Williams is primarily a speed player, but does have coverage kills.

“He does (cover). It depends on the situation,” Puertas said. “He can play zone, but he’s more comfortable in man because he can run with guys. Sometimes, he doesn’t trust his eyes in zone, but he can definitely do it.”

Puertas could also see Williams contributing to the Cajuns immediately as a special teams standout.

“Absolutely, he could be a good special teams player,” Puertas said. “On kickoff, he just kills people. If you want to see what a missile looks like, just put him at the five and let him run.”

These days, Williams is working out with a group of former Grenada High products, including current NFL players defensive end Genard Avery of the Eagles and Ravens third-round draft pick Tyre Phillips.

“No complaints out of Jasper,” Puertas said. “He’s a great kid. You can not go wrong with him. UL is going to love him.”

Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.