To the surprise of no one who has seen him play, Ocean Springs' Austin Williams shined during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Combine on Jan. 9 in San Antonio.
Williams, along with other Coast standouts in St. Stanislaus quarterback Myles Brennan and Biloxi receiver Tim Jones, went through a number of drills before getting one-on-one reps at their respective positions. Brennan's teammate, tight end Chase Rogers, also attended the combine but was unable to compete.
Out of hundreds of athletes who competed, Williams landed on 247Sports' All-Combine first team with the following evaluation: "The 6-foot-3, 200-pound prospect is an impressive athlete that proved to be a tough cover. He continued to run vertical routes and continued to come up with catches. Tested off the charts as well. Will soon blow up on the recruiting trail."
2. About to 'blow up'
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That last sentence seems particularly true. To be honest, I'm surprised Williams, just a junior, hasn't already drawn more interest. He has the size, soft hands, good leaping ability and lists a 4.58-second 40-yard dash time on his Hudl page. He also has the desire to excel and the production to back it up. He caught 56 passes for 928 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior after leading OSHS with 38 receptions for 618 yards and six scores the year before.
His lone offer is from Louisiana Tech, although he said Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Stanford have each shown interest. He plans to camp at Mississippi State's junior day at the end of the month.
3. Born to compete
Williams said he had two main goals in attending the combine, compete against his peers and try to get more attention from the recruiting circles.
"I just wanted to see how I stack up against some of best athletes in the nation," he said.
Williams didn't feel out of place against some of the nation's top juniors.
"I feel like I compared pretty good to everyone else," he said Monday. "I love competing against everyone else."
After showing up Thursday and checking in, Williams spent all day Friday running through drills like the 40, broad jump, the 5-10-5 shuttle, L-cone and power pushups. Saturday, he took in the All-American Bowl, which he said was quite the experience.
"It was pretty cool to see everyone out there," he said. "That's where you want to be."
4. Signing day approaching
National signing day on Feb. 3 is rapidly approaching. Not just for football players, the Coast will have a handful of soccer players to sign as well.
One player whose future still remains up in the air is Biloxi's Koray Easterling. Considered one of the top kids in the state, Easterling said he's still weighing his options.
UAB called Easterling a week ago and was expected to see the Biloxi defender Tuesday night against Gulfport.
With the college decision still looming, does it put added pressure on Easterling?
"Of course. Every game someone is maybe watching I don't know. I have to give everything every game," he said after Friday's 4-0 win over Hancock. "It doesn't make me nervous. It just tells me I need to give 100 every second on the field and in school. It pushes me."
5. UAB, Tulsa, Spring Hill or ..?
With UAB coming into the picture recently, in addition to Tulsa and Spring Hill in Mobile, Easterling said he may not sign on Feb. 3 as it may take a bit longer to make a final decision.
"It could come after," he said. "I'm just going to see, look deeper into it and see what's best for me."
6. Back to form
Speaking of Biloxi athletes, Fred Ramsey-Thompson really stood out Monday in the Indians' 73-60 win over Vigor (Ala.). Coach Seber Windham mixed in his reserves quite a bit and Ramsey-Thompson still ended up with 20 points.
Not bad for a guy who is, by Windham's estimation, about 90 percent back from a broken jaw that sidelined him early in the season.
"But 90 percent Fred is a lot better than most others," Windham said. "I'm thinking probably February he'll be close to 100 percent but we're just happy to have him back."
7. Versatile FRT
As a high school athlete, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Thompson plays the power forward spot for the Indians. Because of his ball handling and shooting ability, Ramsey-Thompson projects more as a shooting guard or small forward at the next level.
"He's a hard matchup because he can score on the perimeter. He's a good shooter who on their team would probably win a 'horse' game. I mean, he can really shoot it," Gulfport coach Owen Miller said of Ramsey-Thompson. "And then he can score inside and he's a great passer. You have to play him honestly."
8. Looking ahead
The junior picked up his first offer from the University of New Orleans this summer. Windham said Ramsey-Thompson has also caught the attention of Southeastern Louisiana, led by former Coast coach Jay Ladner, and South Alabama.
"UNO was here to see him the other night," Windham said. "One of the coaches hadn't seen him before. Afterword he said, 'Coach, he's so skillful.' He's not the most athletic, but his passing and basketball IQ are high-level."
After averaging 14.9 points per game as a sophomore last season, Ramsey-Thompson picked up where he left off, scoring at a 14.8 ppg clip. If he continues to progress, Windham sees more college interest in the lead Indian's future.
"I feel like if he has a really good summer people like USM will start offering," Windham said.
9. Home sweet home
St. Martin's boys basketball team opened the season atop the Sun Herald Top 10 poll -- and for good reason with the firepower the Yellow Jackets returned.
Charlie Pavlus' squad looked to be the real deal as it opened the year with 11 straight wins.
Coinciding with a 10-game road trip, the Yellow Jackets have stalled. Starting with their 2-1 trip to Disney, the Yellow Jackets are 3-7 going back to Dec. 17. That's a long stretch for a team many expected to be leading the Coast.
St. Martin (14-7, 1-2) is currently sitting in third place in 7-6A behind George County (9-4, 2-1) and upstart D'Iberville (16-4, 4-0), so its upcoming three-game homestand to close out region play couldn't come at a better time.
The Yellow Jackets host George County on Friday, D'Iberville on Jan. 26 and Ocean Springs on Jan. 29. If the Yellow Jackets want 2016 to be a year to remember, they better make hay with the upcoming opportunities.
As always, thanks for reading.
Patrick Ochs, a Sun Herald sports reporter, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter at PatrickOchs.