NFL Draft Q&A: DT Dan Williams

DT Dan Williams (AP Photo)

After an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl, Dan Williams is ready to showcase his skills to coaches and scouts at the NFL Combine. Find out how he developed his tackling ability, why he can be successful in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense--and more in this exclusive interview with Scout.com's Ed Thompson.

Ed Thompson: How are you feeling with the NFL Combine only a few days away?

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 it. 

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 my part.


AP/Butch Dill

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 going down.

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 whistle blows."

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 right now?

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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You can follow Ed Thompson on Twitter (@Ed_Thompson). A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com.

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