Williams, D-line growing up

CLEMSON – It seems like only yesterday that DeShawn Williams drove down the road from Daniel High School and found his way into early playing time on Clemson's defensive line.

Suddenly, Williams has become a veteran, a key part of the Tigers' front-line defensive tackle rotation.

How did that happen?

"It's crazy," Williams said this week. "My freshman year seems like yesterday, with all those guys here. Coach (Kevin) Steele, Yams (Brandon Thompson), Rennie (Moore), all those guys. Now to be called a veteran, it hasn't really hit me, I'm used to being ‘The puppy, oh he don't know what he's doing.''

That "puppy" is a big dog of the trenches, who, along with fellow juniors Josh Watson and Grady Jarrett, will be counted on for big snaps and big plays starting with next week's much-anticipated season opener against No.5 Georgia.

"Your career goes by fast," Williams said. "You have to make it count."

The Daniel product played in all 14 games as a true freshman, garnering 20 tackles (two for loss) over 138 snaps.

He started five games last fall, including three of four in a stretch between Oct. 6 and Nov. 3, but none afterward, and played just nine snaps in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. He had 370 snaps, 50 tackles, five for loss and two sacks on the season.

"My sophomore year, I had to get my feet wet and it showed the second half of the season," he said. This fall, Williams says his knowledge is much improved.

"The style of the game is so fast, it's just thrown at you," he said. "This year, I'm more understanding of the game, I know plays. I know personnel. I can call plays out before they do it. Coach (Dan) Brooks being the great defensive line coach that he is, he won't let you slack off. He still treats you like a freshman. That's what I love about him."

This summer, footwork and pad level have been huge focuses of Williams' overall improvement.

"God didn't bless me with being 6-4. He blessed me with long arms and quick feet, and I'm going to use it to my ability," he said. "As a group, we worked on staying low. Going against big guys, we can't stay high. They'll knock us back into the linebackers and create big holes."

Williams, Watson and Jarrett lead a strong rotation that also includes sophomores D.J. Reader and Carlos Watkins, a key part of Brooks' coaching philosophy.

"His coaching style is no drop-off. One guy goes in, just keep attacking," Williams said. "I like it. Some teams, they have two, three defensive tackles, and they get tired throughout the game. (Brooks) wants you go to go out there and be fresh and give it your all every play."

The line's overall depth, he said, is crucial.

"Now we can count on D.J. and Carlos, because they're not freshmen no more," Williams said. "They know the playbook. Now, with the competition at defensive end, they're pretty stout and have depth at defensive end. The whole front seven, with the linebackers and defensive ends, we're going to have pretty good depth with no dropoff."

And the juniors can count on each other, Jarrett said.

"It's good. We're all juniors and we've been together three years," he said. "We've got that bond being out there together. There's a comfort level being out there and grinding it out with the guys who've been here three years since I've been here. We have good camaraderie and are all coming in ready."

They'll need every member of the rotation to combat a strong, experienced Georgia offensive line that protects preseason All-SEC quarterback Aaron Murray.

"It makes you change your attitude," Williams said. "We're not opening up against Furman, someone like that. We're opening up against a powerhouse team."

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