Ed Thompson: How are you feeling with the NFL Combine only a few days
Dan Williams: My trainers and I have been going crazy, but
they keep me in shape. They're helping me get ready to run the 40, do well in
the drills, and I've done a lot of conditioning work, so I feel very
prepared. I've been working my butt off, making sure I'm eating right and
trying to keep my body healthy so I can have a good showing when the time comes
to go to the Combine.
Thompson: What would be your ideal weight and height for the Combine?
Williams: I think a good ideal weight for me--I was like 329 at the
Senior Bowl--but between 315 and 320, no more than 321.
Thompson: I was very impressed with your ability at the Senior Bowl to
clog up the lanes and get a good push against the nation's top athletes. What do you think of your performance overall as you look back on that week?
Williams: I think I was kind of hard on myself sometimes by the end of
the day, especially being coached by Coach Orgeron. You want to win on pass
rush. Sometimes I didn't do as well as I thought I could--I was taught to
do better--but for the most part I enjoyed the experience of going against good
guys like John Jerry, Chris Scott, Ciron Black, and Mike Johnson. Those guys
really pushed my level and challenged me every day to work hard and get better
because those guys aren't going to be pushovers, they're going to bring
Thompson: You got your hand on one of Tony Pike's passes and knocked
it down during the game. That's an aspect of play a lot of defensive linemen overlook, but you obviously pay attention to the details of your position.
Williams: That's something that was instilled in me from my days at
Tennessee. The second rule for a defensive tackle is always get your hands
up. I saw I was getting close to him, saw he was about to release the
ball, and by instinct got my hands up and tipped the pass. I'm always
looking for a way to help out the defense whether that be pressure or a hurry or
a sack or a tipped pass. I'm just trying to help out the corners and always do
Thompson: You led your team in quarterback hurries and led the
defensive linemen in tackles. Everybody knows you can eat up a lot of
space and grab a lot of attention from the offensive linemen, but talk about
your tackling ability.
Williams: I just try to run sideline to sideline every week and every
game. Coach Kiffin always put a big emphasis on roles and he always told
us he wanted a lot of guys at the ball, so every play I was out there I was like
"OK, I need to get to the ball or coach is going to call me out in
meetings." Sometimes I was asked to cover or when certain teams ran
off-plays I was the guy designed to make the tackle, so I feel I can cover
sideline to sideline. I can rush, I'll break and run to the ball, especially on screen plays. Anytime the ball's around me, that person is
Thompson: You also tied for the team lead with 8.5 tackles for a loss. You've really excelled at hitting the gaps at the right time and battling your way to the
ball carrier before he can get out of the backfield.
Williams: It really comes from film study, watching film throughout
the week, trying to study the tendencies of the offensive linemen to pick up
little tips that can help me. It depends on what team you're playing,
trying to know what plays they run, or when they're in a certain formation what
their tendencies are to run a certain run play or a pass or play action. I
try to get little reads on things, but it's also just firing off of the
ball. The Tennessee defensive line, we're taught to fire off the ball and
penetrate, so most times I was just doing my job penetrating and shedding blocks. And when I was in position, I made the play.
Thompson: You're a strong and powerful guy inside, but you also have a
really high motor that was very evident during Senior Bowl week. Where's that come from in your developement as a football player? Not everybody can keep that
energy level up throughout a football game.
Williams: My early years at Tennessee I had to learn how to have that
motor, but I really think my motor started going my junior year. It's a
hunger of mine to get to the ball. I also put in a lot of work in the
offseason doing cardio on top of my workouts--and it really
worked out well for me. I brought it to the field and once the ball is snapped, I just keep playing until the
Thompson: You're one of those rare guys who has both the physical frame at 6-foot-2 and 320 pounds and the skills to play either nose tackle or defensive tackle. You're obviously versatile enough to play either one, but what's your comfort level in each of those schemes?
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Williams: I really feel blessed because going through the coaching
change at Tennessee helped me out a lot. First we played a three-technique
where I was more of a 4-3 tackle and I got a chance to play both of them and
learn techniques and moves. I guess you can show a little more athletic
ability at the three-technique spot. A lot of what we run in a 4-3, you put
your best tackle at the three-technique spot because those guys get a lot of
sacks with their pass rush on passing plays. I would say playing
three-technique is a little easier than nose guard, because in Coach Kiffin's
system you get double-teamed a lot and you're the anchor of the defense. If you
get blown back the defense doesn't have a chance to succeed on that play.
It's a little bit more physical, there's always going to be contact on every
play, but in three-technique your job is to get up the field and you might get
right through if there's poor gap discipline. Playing nose you get a lot
more double and triple-teams, but in three-technique you get a lot more
one-on-ones and more chances to make a sack or a tackle for a loss.
Thompson: As you're getting ready to go to Indianapolis and meet with
NFL coaches, if they asked you to tell them something they may not know about you--something that's a hobby or from your family background--what
would you come share with them?
Williams: I talk a lot on the field sometimes, but off the field I'm a real laid-back guy, I get along with everybody. I like to joke around a lot and play video games and just be a regular college
student. I think my demeanor will speak for itself when someone's able to
meet me. I guess some people think I'm a mean guy on the field, but I'm a
pretty good guy off the field.
Thompson: What's your current hot video game that you can't put down
Williams: Right now I'm still on Madden 2010. I know a lot of
people probably hopped on it before me, but I usually play college, so I'm trying
to get through Madden now.
Thompson: By the time everything wraps up at the Combine, what would
success look like to you?
Williams: I just want to go out there and do my best. I'm very
focused for the Combine and I just want to do the best that I can do--I can't
really ask for more than that. I want to stay focused, keep my head
straight, run a good time in the 40, and do well in my position drills because I
think the coaches really want to know how you react and how you move
side-to-side laterally. Whatever drills they want to throw at me, I want
to do well. And if I do my best, I'll be fine.
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