TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Tim Williams ruined A-Day.
It’s not his fault, mind you. He was just doing what he was told. He couldn’t help that nobody was able to stop him.
Regardless, the Crimson Tide's speedy outside linebacker almost singlehandedly brought Alabama's spring game -- and more importantly, the quarterback competition -- to its knees. What was built as a day to see what Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell could do running the first-team offense instead turned into Bateman and Cornwell running for their lives, mostly from Williams, who speed-rushed, bull-rushed and generally had his pick of ways into the backfield.
When Nick Saban addressed reporters after the game, he warned against making any snap judgments on what had just transpired. That’s because despite going ones vs. ones, he knew there were “mismatches that you really can’t overcome.”
He didn’t need to say Williams’ name -- we all knew who he meant.
The stat sheet had Williams down for a pair of sacks, but his effect was much greater than that. His QB pressures were too many to count, leading to a paltry 14 of 37 passing from Bateman and Cornwell. The team’s top two candidates to start at quarterback combined for 136 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
If you like defense, you loved A-Day. But if you wanted to see Alabama’s offensive firepower on display, you left Bryant-Denny Stadium feeling like you wasted a perfectly good Saturday afternoon. And you had Williams to blame for it.
Williams may have thrown a wrench into the final day of Alabama's spring practice, but on a personal level he showed exactly why he should be considered the most dangerous pass-rusher in the SEC this season. After racking up 10.5 sacks without starting a game last season, he’s poised to ruin many more quarterbacks’ days by stepping into a bigger role as a senior.
For the first part of his career, Williams relied mainly on his athleticism. It made him a valuable weapon on third down, when he could pin his ears back and chase the quarterback, but it also limited his value. He was a good one-trick pony, but a one-trick pony nonetheless.
So this spring, the 6-foot-4 Williams added seven pounds, getting up to 237 in an effort to become an every-down player. In the film room and on the practice field, he said he figured out what to do on first and second downs, focusing on run-blocking and reading run-pass.
“Being out there on first and second down, you just can’t go like it’s third down and run up the field,” Williams said. “A running back will run through your gap. So just seeing things and just my eye technique, focusing on the tackle and his outside shoulder and the focal points of the position.”
With that said, Williams isn’t sacrificing what he does best. He’s going to keep rushing the passer this season, but even in that respect he’s trying to make himself a more well-rounded player by spending time with the team's defensive linemen to see how they use their power to get after the quarterback.
Defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson called it “converting speed to power.”
“Because he’s a speed guy, a lot of people want him to go straight speed around the corner, but he’s been practicing on his power moves, too,” Tomlinson said.
Williams said Tomlinson has “taught me a lot about it” and “said he’ll get me more sacks this year.”
“When he says speed to power, it’s when I get down on third down and take off a hard 10 yards,” Williams said, “and [the tackle] thinks you do a move to the outside, but you set him up to straight full-on power. Because he’s on his heels, when you do that he’ll topple over.”
If you’re wondering exactly what Williams means, find a replay of the A-Day scrimmage. No matter what quarter it is, chances are you’ll see it: Williams toying with offensive linemen, going with pure speed one minute and then rushing straight ahead the next. Poor Korren Kirven had no chance.
Williams torched Kirven and turned the spring game into a one-man show, which didn't make for a great product on the field and certainly wasn’t good for the quarterbacks. But for Williams, it was the perfect coming-out party.