Jesse Williams Has Moved To Nose

Where does a guy who is 6-4 and weighs 319 pounds play? Anywhere he wants to, goes the old joke. Actually, he plays where he wants to, but often with a little encouragement from the coaching staff.

Last year Jesse Williams, the aforementioned 6-4, 319-pounder, was the starter at defensive end for the Alabama football team. This spring the native of Brisbane, Australia, is working at nose tackle, where the Crimson Tide lost both starter Josh Chapman and top back-up Nick Gentry to graduation.

Alabama is nearing the halfway point of spring practice. Bama held its seventh of 15 spring practice dates Wednesday, a two-hour workout that was the fourth in full gear. On Saturday Bama will have the first of three scrimmage dates at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The final scrimmage will be the public A-Day Game on April 14.

Williams was a member of the nation's top defensive team last year. In his first season out of junior college, he turned in 24 tackles, including four for loss and one sack, and had a pass break-up and three quarterback pressures.

Williams downplays the move from end to nose tackle. In part, it's because he frequently played an inside position (five-technique) in Alabama's scheme in 2011, as much tackle as end. Additionally, he had a little playing time at nose tackle last year when Chapman and Gentry were injured.

"I've played most of the defensive line spots, so it's been pretty easy to pick up," he said of the transition. He said there are some differences in technique.

And, he said, "It's a bit more close quarters as far as people, a lot more crunching with a lot of different people instead of just going with the tackle or the gap.

"But being down there isn't too bad. So far, nothing's broken, so I'm good. I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help out."

An oddity of sorts is that there has been a prominent move on Alabama's offensive line, Barrett Jones moving from left tackle to center. Unlike most teams, Bama puts its first offense against its first defense in practice on a regular basis. When Williams was at end, he was going against Jones at tackle. Now Williams is at nose tackle, and he's going against Jones at center.

"I think he's following me," Williams said. "It's not too bad. He's a nice guy. We both compete. We both try to do the same thing – help the team. It's been good so far and hopefully we both get better from it."

Williams said that Jones is catching on. "He's a smart guy," said Williams. "I'm pretty sure he could play wherever he wants."

Williams was asked if Bama's offensive line was the biggest he had seen.

"Yeah," he said, "besides watching ‘The Longest Yard' (a movie about a prison football team). I'm pretty sure it's the biggest offensive line I've seen. They are a great bunch of guys. They work hard as well. They didn't lose too many, so they are pretty strong up front. Hopefully we'll get better from playing against the best offensive line in the country."

Earlier this week, Alabama Coach Nick Saban said Williams "has done really well. It's not a lot different than playing five-technique. We play two-gap so you're only this far (he held his hands a few inches apart) from the guy you're going to butt in the throat. The only difference is the guy's got a ball in his hand if you're playing nose.

"He's done a really good job in there. He can play there or the five-technique. I don't know which way we'll go at the end of the spring. We feel like it's easier for us to move him back to five-technique because that's where he played all last year. So we're going to try and continue to develop guys at the other positions and he'll play most of the spring at nose."

Williams said he is "still trying to work out the kinks" at nose tackle, "but as I get more comfortable playing nose full time, I'll try to get more of a pass rush."

He said that he and Chapman (who was about three inches shorter) "have two different body types. I'm just going to try to do it the best I can to fit my body. Run around and fit blocks and do the best I can. I can't really compare myself to Josh. We're two different kind of players."

Last year, Alabama's defense led the nation in every major statistical category. A lot of outstanding players are gone from that team, but some believe the 2012 Tide defense can be as good as it was in 2011. Williams is one of those believers.

"Yeah, definitely," he said. "We're certainly not the same team, but we've re-loaded at a lot of positions. We had a lot of good quality guys behind the guys that are leaving now. We should be good. We'll see after a couple of scrimmages where everyone fits in and how the defense shapes up."

Damion Square returns at one defensive end spot. Williams was asked who might replace Williams as the other end starter. He said, "A lot of guys who were sitting in the twos and threes last year like Ed Stinson, Quinton Dial, and especially the younger ones like (LaMichael) Fanning and (D.J.) Pettway and (Jeoffrey) Pagan stepping up, and even Chris Bonds coming up at defensive end. All of them are getting reps and trying to get better this spring."

In addition to Williams, players working at nose tackle include true freshman Alphone Taylor, Brandon Ivory, and Wilson Love. "I wouldn't say there is a set depth chart," Williams said. "We're all trying to fight for it."

He described the 6-6, 340-pound Taylor as "giannormous."

Williams said being at Alabama for his second spring practice is easier than the first one last year when he had just reported in from Arizona Western. "I don't feel like I'm always late, or that I'm nervous that I'm missing something. It's a little bit easier coming through the second time, having a little bit of knowledge of what is coming."

What's coming Saturday is a scrimmage. Williams said he will be "just trying to get better. Obviously the practice is a little different in a scrimmage, going 100 per cent. Just trying to work on my technique playing nose and just trying to get better to do whatever I can to help out."

He said he looks forward to the scrimmage. "Yeah," he said, "it's always good, minus the heat inside Bryant-Denny. But it's a lot of fun and a little bit different practicing in a different place."

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