Nebraska wide receiver Keyan Williams announced Monday morning that he's asked for and been granted his release from the school.
Williams' decision comes after a spring football season in which the Huskers showed increased depth at the position, leaving his potential role in question. In a written announcement on Twitter, he maintained that the decision had everything to do with wanting to play a lot of football as a senior and nothing to do with his father, former NU receivers coach Keith Williams, who was part of Mike Riley's staff that was fired after last season.
"I've been agonizing over this for probably about a week and it is without question the hardest decision I have ever made," Keyan Williams wrote. "This decision is 100% about how I would like my senior year to play out if possible. I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and this is what God has planned for me right now."
Williams indicated that he will graduate from Nebraska this summer, which would make him immediately eligible to play his final season this fall.
Williams originally came to Lincoln from Fresno State as a transfer to join his dad, who was previously at Tulane, in the Husker program. Former head coach Mike Riley maintained last fall that Williams was competing with JD Spielman for the starting job in the slot before Williams suffered a hamstring injury in fall camp and missed all but three games.
He had one catch for 19 yards as a junior after sitting out the 2016 season per NCAA transfer rules.
At Fresno State, he caught seven passes for 34 yards as a redshirt freshman.
But the situation became a potentially contentious one when Riley, the elder Williams and the rest of the coaching staff was fired in November after a 4-8 campaign. Keith Williams recently told the Journal Star's Steven M. Sipple, however, that both he and Keyan quickly became fond of the new staff.
"It comes down to this: My son's happiness is more important to me than anything," Keith Williams said then. "He likes it there, he likes the situation, likes the coaches, likes the players. I'd buy an ice cream truck and sell ice cream on the corner if you told me that would make him happy."
During spring ball, sophomore receiver Tyjon Lindsey recounted a conversation among several of the returning receivers about sticking together through the transition.
"Me, Stan, JD and Keyan all talked about Dubs going and just basically being our father figure,” Lindsey said. “What are we going to do? We spoke with Dub a couple of times and our final decision was just like, we’re brothers, why would we all separate from each other? Why don’t we just try to bring the tradition back to Nebraska football? We’re already here, we signed up for it, let’s follow through with it. Just because we lost somebody doesn’t mean we can’t build off of each other.”
But while Lindsey, Stanley Morgan and Spielman all appear to have big roles in the new NU offense, Williams may well have found himself on the outside of the rotation looking in. After the top three, the Huskers liked what they saw from redshirt freshman Jaevon McQuitty, junior transfer Mike Williams and true freshman Justin McGriff during the spring. This summer, they add transfer Jaron Woodyard and freshmen Dominick Watt and Andre Hunt to the room along with a potential multipurpose threat in Miles Jones.
"I also want to thank Coach Frost and the whole staff for giing me an opportunity this spring," Williams wrote. "I appreciate everything you guys have taught me and will take it with me for the rest of my life. Nothing but best wishes for my Husker bros, especially the WideOuts, I love you all! I would also like to thank the fans. Although I have only been here for two years, I felt welcomed from day one. There really is no place like Nebraska and I will never forget that."
Williams is the fourth player to leave the program this spring, though the university has not yet confirmed the departure of sophomore offensive lineman Bryan Brokop. Fullback Ben Miles and quarterback Patrick O'Brien are also headed elsewhere.
By the Journal Star's count, the Huskers are now right on the 85-man scholarship limit, down from a high of 89 entering spring ball. More attrition is always still possible, of course, and NU likely intends to give UCF transfer quarterback Noah Vedral a scholarship at some point, so that number will likely remain somewhat fluid throughout the summer.