At 6-3 and 250 pounds, Williams is grossly undersized for an SEC defensive tackle. Dooley concedes as much, joking that the last time he saw a 250-pounder start at defensive tackle was during his playing days at Clarke Central High of Athens, Ga.
Because the Vols have great depth at end and no depth at tackle, the head man has struggled all preseason to assemble a four-man defensive front featuring two ends and two tackles. Ultimately, he chose to go with three ends and one tackle.
"We have a lot of depth and experience at defensive end," Dooley said, "so we find ourselves with five or six defensive ends who we're not afraid to put in the game. And yet, (we have) only a couple of tackles who have consistently performed to where we feel comfortable with them. So, it's a big-picture philosophy: Put a better player in.
"Will Gerald be a better tackle than he will an end? No. But he'll be better probably than the next defensive tackle."
Dooley reiterated that the Vols will rely on a committee approach at tackle, rotating a lot of players in hopes of (a) keeping them fresh, (b) giving opponents different looks in different situations and (c) determining which tackle is most competent.
Ironically, Williams was reluctant to move from linebacker to end when he arrived at Tennessee from junior college two years ago. Apparently, he had no such reservations about moving from end to tackle.
"He's been great. Gerald wants to play," Dooley said. "He's still going to play end, too. He'll be one of those back-and-forth guys, just like Corey Miller."
Miller is a 6-3, 255-pound mid-term freshman who is listed second-team at left defensive end behind Malik Jackson, a 6-5, 265-pound junior transfer from Southern Cal.
"Malik's been pretty steady at defensive end, and we think he brings something for us," Dooley said, adding that Williams has been "phenomenal" at buying into the team concept and putting aside his personal goals.
Senior linebacker Nick Reveiz agreed that Williams has embraced his position switch in the best interests of the team.
"I can't say enough about how hard he's been working and he's just such a team guy," Reveiz said. "He said, 'Hey, Coach, wherever I need to be used let me be used, wherever I need to play let me play.' He's done a great job in there at 3-technique. He's working his butt off, trying to help out wherever he can."
Reveiz, who plays middle linebacker at 5-10 and 224 pounds, can identify with the challenge Williams faces in being an undersized tackle.
"As a tackle, you want him heavier," Reveiz conceded, "but if you're talking about heart, this guy wants it so bad."
The senior linebacker went on to note that using the hands to shed blockers is crucial for Vol defensive tackles, and that Williams is "great" in this area.
Senior end Chris Walker also praised Williams' dedication and team spirit in making the move to tackle.
"That just helps us get our best four on the field in the defensive line, so I think that helps us a lot," Walker said. "He's done well in there. He loves playing in there. He just says he wants to do what's best for the team."