May 11, 2009
By Jeff Glatzer, Football.com
Dan Williams is a 6-foot-3, 310-pound, long-armed defensive tackle for Tennessee and currently projected as a third-round pick in the 2010 NFL draft. He is an explosive run plugger in the middle of the Volunteer defensive front and will be a key cog for the Vols against all those powerful SEC offenses.
Williams, from Memphis, approaches his senior season with high aspirations.
"I try to get better every day so that will translate to the game and try to play the best that I can," he said.
Leverage is everything in the trenches. Williams exhibits quick feet and good leverage with a low center of gravity. That and his functional strength should make for a strong season in 2009 and a possible rise on draft charts.
The Vols have a different defensive philosophy under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who made his name coaching all those stellar defenses with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. All of the UT defenders are facing big adjustments, and Williams is working hard at learning the system.
"Every coach has a different philosophy and being a defensive player, with a new defensive coordinator, he [introduced] a whole new defense than what we ran last year," Williams said of Kiffin.
Tennessee ran a 4-3 defensive scheme last year, where Williams played a 3 technique, more of a traditional defensive tackle position. This year he'll be expected to play more of a 1 or 2 technique, almost like a nose tackle.
"In this defense ... I'll be playing mostly over center," he said
Williams' strength is stopping the run. With a bench press currently at 500 pounds and a 40 time of 5.21, he can be an effective run-stopper at the next level as well.
Williams enters his senior season as one of the most experienced defensive linemen on the team, having started 22 games. In first career start in 2007, he recorded a career-high six tackles against Southern Miss. Last season he had 48 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss.
Going into the 2009 season, Williams expects to serve in a leadership role.
"My strongest asset might be the leadership I will have for these other guys," he said. "I'm going to try to lead these guys and show them the right way [to do things] and get them on the right path."
At the end of last season, Williams asked the NFL for an evaluation on his draft status before opting to return for his senior year, which was a huge boost for the rebuilding Vols.
"I just wanted to see where I was at," he said. "I just felt that there was more ball for me to play, and I wanted to get my degree. I just thought I could improve all around as a football player."
Education is an important factor in Williams' career as well. He is currently pursuing a major in legal studies and expects to graduate on time. He has the same approach to film study, as Williams prides himself on game preparation.
"I'm always trying to see who our next opponent is. I try to learn what the tendencies are for the [opposing] offensive linemen," he said.
The challenges for Williams are steeper this season because he had plenty of help on the line from upperclassmen last year. This season will bring more double-teams, especially playing at nose tackle. Williams is well aware of this and knows he must train and practice 110 percent to meet that challenge.
"I have to make sure about my hand placement and be sure my footwork is right every time," he said.
Explosiveness is the first thing that comes to mind when watching Williams come off the line. His reaction time is precise so he can engage his opponent effectively.
"First thing I think about is where my assignment is and what my responsibility is," he said. "Once I know where I'm supposed to line up, I just know it's going to be a long day for whoever is front of me."