Who will give Alabama a run for its money this season? The Tide has outscored opponents 168-21 in…
Bulldogs Probably Know Williams
There is a very good chance that this fellow is Jesse Williams, Alabama's senior nose tackle from Brisbane, Australia. Williams said he "just decided to cut it; pretty spur of the moment sort of thing. I just want to not stand out in public as much. It's pretty tough when you have a half-a-foot Mohawk on your head. Hopefully, the bad head will deter people a little more from thinking it's me."
Jesse, you don't really believe that, do you?
"No," he admitted. "Unless I got rid of all my tattoos and lost 200 pounds, I think it's going to be tough to hide for a while."
The real reason, he confessed, is "I just kind of cut it. I usually do something midway through the season just to mix it up. I was running out of ideas, so I decided to cut my hair."
And he cut it himself. "It was a little tough in the back, because my shoulders make it kind of hard to reach back there."
In all probability, Mississippi State's center and other offensive players will recognize him. Williams is being mentioned for national recognition, including All-America. And also including Bednarik, Outland, Nagurski, Lombardi, and Lott. And he's being listed as a likely high NFL draft choice.
He claims not to notice.
"Not really," Williams said. "I know all the awards and trophies, I have no clue who all the players are, so it kind of helps. Obviously I know about All-America and stuff like that. That would be awesome, and it's great to have. But right now, winning is at the top of the mantle for me and the other players that talk surrounds. I think if we just keep what we're doing to help the team, those things will fall into place for us in the future."
Williams anchors the middle of a Crimson Tide defense that is first in the nation in all the major categories – rushing, passing, pass efficiency, total, and scoring.
And, of course, Alabama is undefeated, 7-0 overall and 4-0 in Southeastern Conference play, and ranked first in the nation. Mississippi State is also 7-0 (3-0 in SEC games) and ranked 12th in one poll, 13th in the other.
Williams and his Crimson Tide teammates host the Bulldogs at 7:30 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The game will be televised by ESPN.
Williams came to Alabama prior to the 2011 season from junior college and is now a senior and second-year starter (though he was a defensive end last year). In addition to his new role, he said the biggest change from last year to this season is his new role.
"I think having to step up as like a leader, being a senior, and it being my last season," he said.
He also said this is a different team from the 2011 national championship squad. "Last year we had a lot of great players," he said. "Don't get me wrong. We have a lot of great players this year, but I think we're more one. We come together real well. I'm just trying to help get everyone going with that."
Williams admitted that playing nose tackle means getting "banged around a lot. Usually the biggest guys are in those trenches down there, and when they come down, they bring a bit of thump."
There's been one other addition to his repertoire, one he hopes he can expand. Alabama has a goalline package that includes Williams playing in the Bama backfield as a blocking fullback.
His teammates agree he has been a force in helping Tide backs get into the end zone. But Williams wants more.
"That's been a lot of fun," he said. "It's going to get a lot funner if they give me a chance and let me grab the ball, but that looks doubtful. I'll just keep blocking for now.
"I played rugby back in Australia. I'm sure I can catch a ball. I tell them every day, every time I see the coaches. I tell them my hands are ready for the ball."
Teammate Anthony Steen, an offensive guard, said that he likes to see Williams at fullback. But as for catching a pass?
"Oh, God," Steen said. "I don't see that happening."
Williams expects a physical game Saturday. "They have real big guys that like to come off the ball, especially running the ball," he said. "It's good. We like playing physical football, too, and we've shown that we can handle other physical teams. It should be good fun."
Mississippi State has the SEC's leading rusher in LaDarius Perkins (103.4 yards per game). "I don't know who he is, personally," Williams said. "I know they have a lot of good backs and they do run the ball well. They get a lot of yards. Fortunately for us, we're actually pretty good at playing run defense. Hopefully when we come together, it will be a good game."
As Williams started away, he was asked by a sportswriter, "Will you let us know if you find a place to blend in?"
"I already know it," he said. "Australia. I'll give you a shout when I get back there."
"I guess that's how they are over there," teammate Steen opined.
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