The Crimson White

Quinnen Williams gains notoriety after prolific play

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CW/ Hannah Saad

CW/ Hannah Saad

CW/ Hannah Saad

James Ogletree, Staff Reporter

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It’s rare for a redshirt sophomore defensive lineman to be a full-time starter at Alabama. It’s also rare for a nose tackle to have 7.5 tackles for loss in seven games. It’s especially rare for a first-year starter in the SEC to fly up NFL draft boards, impress scouts as potentially the best player on his defense and be touted as a potential top-10 pick in the next NFL draft.

Then what should be the reaction to Quinnen Williams, who has done all three? For his teammates on the Crimson Tide defense, the answer is to marvel at his ascent and relish the opportunity to play with him.

“He’s a great player,” junior linebacker Mack Wilson said. “I feel like he’s very explosive. He’s fast. So it’s easy for me to make my reads just playing behind him because he takes on double teams and he does what he’s supposed to do, along with [defensive linemen Isaiah] Buggs and Raekwon [Davis].”

While Davis and Buggs started nearly every game last year, Williams rarely saw the field, rotating into the game to give the starters a rest or when the game was well in hand.  

However, a glance at the stat sheet was a harbinger of things to come. Despite playing a fraction of his teammates’ snaps, Williams recorded 6.5 tackles for loss in his redshirt freshman season, outpacing seven teammates who are currently in the NFL and ranking second among the team’s D-linemen.  

“[Williams] didn’t get to play all the time, but he’s got great initial quickness,” coach Nick Saban said. “He’s a very smart player. He’s always well-prepared. […] For his size, he’s got really good power to go with his initial quickness. He’s a good pass-rusher. So he has probably improved more and played with the most consistency of anybody that we have on defense.”

Alabama’s coaching staff has selected Williams as one of its players of the week five times in seven games this season, tied with Tua Tagovailoa for the team lead.

Teammates have called him a “freak” and a “monster.” Senior center Ross Pierschbacher said he feels the pain of opposing O-linemen who have tried, in vain, to block him.

Jonathan Allen, one of the most decorated players in Alabama history, saw this breakout coming a year and a half ago. After his senior year, the unanimous All-American predicted big things for the freshman lineman who was already being compared to him.

“He’s going to be a baller. He’s going to be a beast,” Allen told AL.com in February 2017, lauding Williams’ tenacity, toughness, grit and mean streak.

Though his mean streak is in full force for three hours every Saturday, teammates say Williams is laid-back and reserved off the field and has an underrated sense of humor.

“He’s a goofball, that’s how I’d describe him,” sophomore offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. said. “Everything, his jokes, the way he acts – he’s just a funny man.”

The Missouri Tigers offense saw nothing funny about Williams last Saturday, however, as he recorded a career-high seven total tackles. That included an end-zone sack of Mizzou quarterback Drew Lock on the last play of the third quarter, which led to a safety and two points on the board for the Crimson Tide.

The play made the social media rounds, capturing the attention of analysts from the SEC Network, The Draft Network and Pro Football Focus (PFF).

The Draft Network’s Benjamin Solak ranked Williams as the third-best NFL prospect in the nation and projected him as the No. 7 overall draft pick. Williams’ PFF player grade of 95.0 is the highest of any player at any position in college football.

Few Alabama defenders have garnered such widespread acclaim in their sophomore years. Williams has clearly shown he’s next in a long line of heralded Alabama defensive linemen, and if he continues this torrid pace, he could end up being the best of them all.   

“I think his technique is as good as anybody’s,” senior outside linebacker Christian Miller said. “If you watch how violent he is with his hands, how he sheds blockers, how he uses his leverage, and he’s just a very talented guy. A lot of it is natural, too. He’s been doing that since I’ve been here, since I’ve seen him, he’s been playing like that. […] He’s got a great opportunity right now and is making the most of it.”

 

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Quinnen Williams gains notoriety after prolific play