INDIANAPOLIS — For much of the college football season, stopping Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams was a fool’s errand.
Williams had at least a half a sack in seven games in 2018 and was part of a tackle for loss in 11 different games. And he did it all as a redshirt sophomore. As a result, Pro Football Focus graded Williams as the top player in all of college football last season. The All-American had 10 sacks and 16 quarterback hits, according to PFF, and even more pressures.
He won the Outland Trophy as college football’s best interior lineman and finished just behind Kentucky pass rusher Josh Allen for the Bednarik Award.
Williams is the latest Alabama defensive lineman who will hear his name called on draft weekend. In the last three years, seven Crimson Tide defensive linemen have been drafted, none higher than Washington taking Da’Ron Payne 13th overall in 2018.
That is, until now. Williams is almost assuredly a top-four pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. At the NFL Scouting Combine, teammates and opponents alike raved about Williams.
Williams was even tough for his own teammates to figure out.
Teammate Jonah Williams, Alabama’s left tackle, once even referred to Quinnen Williams as an “almost 300-pound bar of soap” because he’s so hard to get a hold of.
If there’s one Alabama player who knows Williams more than anyone, though, it’s center Ross Pierschbacher. For the Crimson Tide, Williams often played nose tackle over the center, and in Alabama’s intense practices, Williams and Pierschbacher routinely matched up against one another.
“His get-off is something serious,” Pierschbacher said on Thursday. “He’s got a really good get-off, and he’s slippery.”
Williams isn’t just quickness, though. He has serious moves as a pass rusher, including a quick swim move and a strong bull rush. When his first move doesn’t work, he’s fast to counter and try something else.
Here’s that quickness in action against LSU, a game in which he had 2.5 sacks:
“I tried to find little things that he did that would give his pass rush away, and I couldn’t find anything on him,” Pierschbacher said. “That made me mad throughout the whole year. I’d sit there and watch film, and if I thought he was going to go one way from what I studied, and he’d go the other way. So I don’t know if he was reading me or switching it up.
“It was frustrating to block him, but he made me better.”
Pierschbacher was adamant that the best way to stop Williams is to double-team him on the inside.
Williams was ready to make opponents pay if they let their guard down.
For Georgia center Lamont Gaillard, the game plan was to be physical with Williams and Alabama from the onset. It mostly worked. In that game, Georgia routinely double-teamed Williams. On the first play they didn’t, though, and Williams pushed past Georgia’s right tackle and sacked Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm.
“You have to set a tone and lay them out sometimes just so they know you’re there,” Gaillard said about the game plan against Alabama. “(Williams has) a great motor. He’s going to attack and be consistent on every basis and he’s a strong player.”
Williams is so good, he breaks streaks. Like, big streaks. Mississippi State center Elgton Jenkins knew exactly how many snaps he played without giving up a sack. The number was 762. Then Jenkins — a likely top-100 draft pick in his own right — came up against Williams. Oh no:
Streak over. In that game, Williams had six tackles, two tackles for loss, and the sack. It was part of a string of five games where he had 6.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss.
“He’s very quick and he knows where the ball is going,” Jenkins said. “He’s always a step ahead.”