NCF Nation: Dan Williams

Seven SEC players go in first round

April, 23, 2010
4/23/10
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The SEC's seven first-round NFL draft picks on Thursday night was second to the Big 12's nine.

The SEC has now had five picks in the top 20 of the first round four years in a row.

The first-round proceedings Thursday night reminded us all one more time that how decorated you are at the college level and how many awards you win aren't real important in the eyes of pro scouts.

Take Alabama cornerback Kareem Jackson, for instance. He played in the shadow of Javier Arenas all season a year ago. Arenas was a consensus All-American and one of the "stars" of the defense. It was all Jackson could do to earn honorable mention All-SEC status.

Still, he was solid all season as a shutdown cornerback, ran great times in the 40-yard dash and wound up being the fourth defender drafted from the league, going 20th overall to the Houston Texans.

Jackson is another one of those guys who wasn't highly recruited, either. He went to Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy out of school even though he was qualified academically and was committed initially to Vanderbilt until Nick Saban and Alabama jumped on him.

Say this, too, for Jackson. He's supremely confident in his abilities. He turned pro this past season despite Saban telling him he needed another season of college ball.

As for guys who slipped, who would have thought at the end of the regular season last year that Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap wouldn't go in the first round?

At that point, he was being projected as a top 15 pick by all the analysts. But that next week, he was arrested on DUI charges, was suspended for the SEC championship game, and apparently some of his interviews with teams following the season didn't go well.

In Friday night's second and third rounds, one of the SEC guys to watch will be LSU defensive tackle Al Woods. After a so-so college career, Woods really shot up draft boards this offseason with solid workouts.

And who will be the first SEC player to get picked in the second round?

I'll go with Alabama's Terrence Cody, but my dark horse is Ole Miss' Dexter McCluster.

Here's the complete list of SEC first-rounders on Thursday:

SEC all-bowl team

January, 12, 2010
1/12/10
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Having had a few days now to digest the 2009 bowl season, here’s a look at the All-SEC bowl team:

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Tim Tebow torched Cincinnati for a career-high 482 passing yards and three TDs.
QB Tim Tebow, Florida
Broke Vince Young’s record for total offense in a BCS bowl game with 533 yards in the Gators’ 51-24 rout of Cincinnati in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Completed 31 of 35 passes for a career-high 482 yards.

RB Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss
Was there a better player in the SEC the second half of the season? McCluster rushed for 184 yards and two touchdowns in the AT&T Cotton Bowl win.

RB Mark Ingram, Alabama
Despite cramping up in the Citi BCS National Championship Game, the Heisman Trophy winner showed his grit and led the Crimson Tide with 116 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

WR Riley Cooper, Florida
Led the Gators’ offensive explosion in the Sugar Bowl with 181 receiving yards, including an 80-yard touchdown. Cooper averaged 25.9 yards on seven catches.

WR Brandon LaFell, LSU
The Tigers didn’t put up much offense, but LaFell had five catches for 87 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown. LaFell led all SEC players with 19 touchdown catches over the past two seasons.

TE Aaron Hernandez, Florida
His nine catches led all players in the Sugar Bowl, and he finished with 111 receiving yards. Hernandez opened the Gators’ scoring with a 7-yard touchdown catch.

OL John Jerry, Ole Miss
Helped clear the way for Ole Miss’ 193 rushing yards against an Oklahoma State defense that finished ranked 11th nationally against the run.

OL James Carpenter, Alabama
Combined with Mike Johnson to make the key block that helped spring Trent Richardson on his 49-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of the Citi BCS National Championship Game.

OL Justin Anderson, Georgia
The Bulldogs were playing without starting right tackle Josh Davis, and Anderson came off the bench in the second half to help give a much-needed lift to the running game.

OL Mike Johnson, Alabama
The anchor of an Alabama offensive line that paved the way for both Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson to each rush for more than 100 yards against Texas’ vaunted defense.

C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida
Spent more than five hours at Tulane Hospital with kidney stones and had several IV’s, but didn’t miss the start and led the way for the Gators up front.

DEFENSE

DE Marcell Dareus, Alabama
Had the hit that knocked Texas quarterback Colt McCoy out of the game and also returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown right before halftime.

DE Carlos Dunlap, Florida
Came back strong from his suspension in the SEC championship game with two sacks in the Gators’ Sugar Bowl romp.

DT Geno Atkins, Georgia
Pressured Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson relentlessly. Atkins finished with a sack and also blocked a field goal attempt in the second quarter.

DT Dan Williams, Tennessee
A rock all season long in the middle for the Vols, Williams ended his career with nine tackles, including a half a sack in the 37-14 loss to Virgina Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

LB Patrick Trahan, Ole Miss
His 34-yard fumble return for a touchdown sealed the game for the Rebels with 3:12 remaining. Trahan also had an interception on Oklahoma State’s next possession.

LB Jerry Franklin, Arkansas
Finished with 10 tackles and had a third-quarter interception that turned the game around for the Hogs. East Carolina was leading 10-0, but Franklin intercepted a pass and returned it 31 yards to set up an Arkansas field goal.

LB Eric Norwood, South Carolina
Wrapped up a record-setting career at South Carolina by leading the Gamecocks with 10 tackles in their 20-7 loss to Connecticut in the Papajohns.com Bowl.

DB Walter McFadden, Auburn
Intercepted two passes in Auburn’s Outback Bowl win. McFadden’s first pick set up a touchdown, and he did the honors himself on the second one – returning it 100 yards for a touchdown.

DB Tramain Thomas, Arkansas
His 37-yard interception return for a touchdown tied the game in the third quarter. Thomas also tipped away a pass at the goal line in the final minutes that might have saved the game.

DB Kendrick Lewis, Ole Miss
Intercepted two passes in Ole Miss’ 21-7 Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma State. His big hit in the fourth quarter also forced the fumble that Patrick Trahan returned 34 yards for a touchdown to break the game open.

DB Chad Jones, LSU
Did a little bit of everything in his final game at LSU. Led the Tigers with eight tackles, including one for loss, while also forcing a fumble, breaking up a pass and blocking a kick.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Alex Tejada, Arkansas
His 37-yard field goal in overtime was the difference in Arkansas’ 20-17 victory over East Carolina in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

P Spencer Lanning, South Carolina
In extremely cold conditions, Lanning punted seven times for a 42.3-yard average and had a long of 48 yards. He also doubles as the Gamecocks’ place-kicker.

KR Brandon Boykin, Georgia
Tied an SEC record with his third kickoff return for a touchdown this season, taking one back 81 yards to answer Texas A&M’s first touchdown.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Senior defensive tackle Dan Williams has helped take the Tennessee defense to another level these last few weeks, and in the process, is setting himself up for a nice payday.
 
 Paul Abell-US Presswire
 Dan Williams has the kind of skills NFL defensive coordinators covet.

William’s NFL stock is soaring. Everybody is looking for disruptive interior linemen who can rush the passer, and the 6-3, 320-pound Williams certainly fits that bill.

"Our defense starts with Dan. He's a dominant force and making himself a lot of money," Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin said.

In the latest position rankings by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Williams was third among all senior defensive tackles in the country. He’s also making a strong bid for first-team, All-SEC honors.

Williams is third on Tennessee’s team with 39 total tackles, including three for loss, and leads the team in quarterback hurries with nine. Seven of those hurries have come in the last four games.

His play up front is a big reason the Vols have been as good as any defense in the SEC heading into this stretch drive.

Williams, who's as easy-going off the field as he is intense on it, took some time to chat earlier this week heading into Saturday’s home game with Memphis:

You’re playing the best football of your career. What do you attribute that to?

Dan Williams: For one, I’m in the best shape since I’ve been here, and that’s showing out there on the field. I’m improving every day, practicing harder, doing everything it takes to be a good football player.

How much better are you moving at the lighter weight?

DW: I’m around 320 right now and able to last a lot longer out there and play a whole lot harder. When I first got here as a freshman, I was 357, but I told myself I was never going to see that weight again. It was just too much good eating. I sort of fell off again after last season when I went home for the holidays and we didn’t go to a bowl game. I got back up to around 340 and wasn’t watching what I ate. But once spring came and the coaches talked to me, I knew had to get back down to be the player I wanted to be and for the good of the team.

What kind of impact has Ed Orgeron had on your development?

DW: He’s been pushing me since he got here. That’s the main thing, and I’ve also learned a lot from him film-wise and about offensive schemes. The main thing, though, is the way he’s driven me every day in practice and helped me become a better pass-rusher.

Back in the preseason, they had you listed with the second team. Were they just trying to motivate you?

DW: I really don’t know. I just know these coaches are going to play the best players. I guess my practice habits weren’t as good, and I wasn’t meeting their expectations. I had to change the way Dan Williams was practicing. The way I practiced with the old coaching staff wasn’t going to get it. I had to get my mind focused and show these coaches that I was one of the better players on the team.

What’s the secret to Monte Kiffin’s success as a defensive coordinator?

DW: I’d say it’s the energy level he coaches with, the way he treats practice and the intensity he brings. He just has this way of being able to explain things to guys where you know exactly what he wants. You might play for some coaches, and they tell you to do something. When you play for coach Kiffin, he gets out there and shows you where he wants you to drop, how he wants you to do it and explains why you’re doing it. I have a lot better understanding now of what the linebackers and DBs are doing and know that if I don’t do my job how much it’s going to hurt the whole defense.

You guys finished tied for third in the country last season in total defense. Is this defense better than that one, and what are the differences in the two defenses?

DW: It’s a different group of guys, and every year I’ve been here, the defense has always run to the ball and played hard. But we’re playing more with a chip on our shoulder this year because none of us ever want to go through what we did last year with the 5-7 record and our coach getting fired.

With the way your offense has improved, do you think you’re that team right now that nobody really wants to face the rest of the way?

DW: I think so. We’re playing for each other. We’re playing hard, and it’s like coach Kiffin always says, ‘Team first.’ Everything we’re doing, we’re doing with the team first. If we continue to play this way, it’s going to be very tough to beat us.

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