Williams Wants the Swagger

In less than a week, the Irish football team will take the field in the opener against Georgia Tech. The upperclassmen know what the game day experience is like. For the freshmen, it'll be the first time going through the tunnel and running out onto the field of sold-out Notre Dame Stadium. First-year nose tackle Ian Williams hasn't thought what his feelings will be next Saturday afternoon.

"It hasn't hit me yet," Williams said about his first game in a Notre Dame uniform. "It'll hit me when I have to tap that ‘Play Like a Champions" sign. I'll be ready to go out there and play then."

There's a good chance Williams will get to see time in the Yellow Jackets contest. Junior Pat Kuntz is the starter at nose tackle in the new 3-4 personnel defense. But head coach Charlie Weis said it's not practical for the guy at that position to play every down. The nose tackle's main responsibility is taking on both the center and guard and allow the linebackers behind him to clean up the action. The pounding of two 300-pound offensive linemen can take its toll.

Depth and staying fresh is crucial at nose tackle and that's where Williams comes in. The freshman is a load at 6-2, 300 pounds and could be the player to spell Kuntz for periods of time during games. Williams has already taken to one of Kuntz's characteristics that the freshman thinks is vital along the defensive line.

"I like his swagger and how he plays," Williams said of Kuntz. "I like to watch the older guys in practice, like Trevor (Laws) and Justin (Brown) and Pat. You can't just come on the field like it's another game. We have to have that swagger to go out there, have fun and make plays."

Williams played both ways along the line in high school. The freshman was named to Florida's Class 5A first-team All-State squad as an offensive lineman in 2006. Williams was also picked as a first-team all-Central Florida pick at defensive lineman by the Orlando Sentinel. At Lyman High School, Williams played the three-technique, where the defensive lineman lines up on the outside shoulder of an offensive lineman. In Notre Dame's scheme, the nose tackle will be head-on with the center. The freshman has put in numerous hours studying the position.

"I mainly just watched the upperclassmen and saw what they did," Williams said. "I watched what Pat Kuntz was doing. I was also watching film of the New England Patriots and Vince Wilfork. I watched those guys and studied their technique."

Williams has picked up a few pointers. Staying low and displaying good footwork will hopefully prevent the freshman from getting pushed back by the offensive line.

"Leverage is a big thing in college because if you get high you get blown back and get pancaked," Williams said. "If you're in a reach block and you step with your wrong foot, it could be a reach real quick."

Leverage will be important for whoever is playing the nose tackle position. There's going to be around 600 pounds of force meeting Kuntz or Williams' effort to hold up the center and one of the guards. For Williams, battling against two opponents in the trenches at the same time isn't foreign territory.

"I'm use to it," Williams said. "In high school, I was tripled teamed and quadruple teamed. I'm use to it. The speed and the size of the guys in college overwhelm me at times but I'm getting better and putting my work."

Williams was sporting a cast on Friday during the interview session on his right wrist/hand. But the freshman said the injury is just a bruise and has not stopped his from either practice or contact. Williams' big body will help shore up depth along the defensive line. The group is one of the question marks for Notre Dame heading into the 2007 season after losing Derek Landri and Victor Abiamiri to graduation. Don't tell that to Williams.

"Some people love Notre Dame," Williams said. "Some people hate Notre Dame. Our d-line, we have a great group and a great bunch of guys. All of them are cool. We'll have to prove college football wrong and show them we can play."

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