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Florida football recruiting: Former Gators commit Deontai Williams commits as JUCO safety

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The talented Trinity Christian product is once again a Gator.

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Florida vs Iowa Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in three years, Deontai Williams has committed to the Florida Gators.

That’s the news of this Monday morning, as Williams committed via tweet...

...with a host of outlets confirming the news about a half-hour later, led by Gator Country’s Andrew Spivey. Jim McElwain’s Twitter account also confirmed the commitment with the customary #ChompChomp tweet.

It’s a long, strange trip back to the fold for Williams, who first became a Florida commit in January 2014, as a junior at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville. Williams became Florida’s only 2015 commit when he committed — though he was not the first, as Da’Vante Phillips, Dalvin Cook’s half brother, had already committed to Florida in the summer of 2013 and decommitted from the Gators before him — and was thought of as the first piece of a constellation of stars from Trinity Christian in the 2015 recruiting class who could end up as Gators.

Instead, Florida ended up signing zero Trinity Christian recruits in the 2015 class, partially as a result of the turnover from Will Muschamp to McElwain. And the promised alignment of Trinity Christian and Jacksonville-area stars ended up scattering: Not only did the big three from Duval, consisting of Kevin Toliver (LSU), Jeffery Holland (Auburn, following Muschamp), and Sherrod Pittman (of First Coast High, who went to South Carolina — where he would, eventually, play for Muschamp) all split up, all seven Trinity Christian players listed among the 247Sports top 100 recruits in Florida for the 2015 class chose different schools, with only defensive tackle Kendrick Norton staying in state.

Williams, for his part, was the only one of those seven Trinity Christian players to sign with a program outside the Power Five, eventually inking with Ohio on National Signing Day in a surprise decommitment from Georgia, which he flipped to from Florida in July 2014. But he never matriculated in either Athens, ultimately landing at Jones County Junior College in Mississippi, a conference rival of the East Mississippi Community College featured in Netflix’s Last Chance U, and appears to have only just now made the grades necessary to actually get his chance at big-time college football in recent months.

And big-time is an understatement: Williams got sniffs from Alabama, Georgia, and LSU this spring, per Zach Abolverdi of SEC Country, a testament to the talent that had me idly comparing him to Reggie Nelson after I watched his high school highlights, which were stocked with hard hits. That such interest came after suffering an ACL injury last fall, according to 247Sports’ Blake Alderman, is a strong suggestion that Williams has always had SEC-level talent, but lacked the wherewithal to do everything else necessary to see the field for an SEC team.

Now, more than three years after initially committing to Florida, Williams — whose updated highlights are still scintillating — might actually be in line to do so. He’s a member of the Gators’ 2018 recruiting class, so he won’t arrive in Gainesville until at least the end of the fall, and more likely the spring, but Williams would immediately be in the mix at safety for the Gators, who will lose Marcell Harris and Nick Washington after the 2017 season.

Williams is Florida’s ninth commit for the 2018 recruiting cycle.