ATLANTA -- Poor Jawaan Taylor.
For three-and-a-half quarters, Florida’s right tackle did his best to corral the Alabama pass rush. But the freshman’s 6-foot-5, 340-pound frame began to give way late during the SEC championship game on Saturday, and the self-described “sniper” of quarterbacks lined up across from him wasn’t feeling a shred of sympathy.
Tim Williams did what he always does. Ahead 47-16 and facing a second-and-long, Alabama’s senior outside linebacker guessed pass and got into a mini-crouch, eyeing the snap. He burst off the edge, shooting upfield in the blink of an eye. Taylor shuffled to keep up, but he couldn’t lay a hand on Williams, who did a half-circle of the pocket, tackling Austin Appleby’s backside to tie for the team lead in sacks with 8.5.
Don’t worry, Jawaan. You’re not alone in falling victim to Williams’ speed.
Alabama’s trick of unleashing Williams on passing downs has been the death of opposing offensive linemen for the better part of two seasons now. The 6-foot-3, 237-pound Louisiana native didn’t start a single game last season, yet he ranked second on the team with 10.5 sacks. During the playoff semifinal game against Michigan State, he showcased his full repertoire when he got right tackle Kodi Kieler on his heels, hit him with the spin move and then clubbed him to the ground before sacking Connor Cook. And rather than enter the NFL draft a few weeks later, Williams returned to school in hopes of becoming an every-down player.
Pro Football Focus now ranks Williams No. 1 among all Power 5 edge-rushers in pass-rush productivity with 50 QB pressures this season. He also has two forced fumbles and scored a defensive touchdown. In speaking with an SEC offensive assistant prior to the SEC title game, the word “elite” came up several times to describe Williams’ ability.
On a defense that includes a Butkus Award winner at linebacker (Reuben Foster) and the Nagurski Award winner at defensive tackle (Jonathan Allen), Williams said he sees it as a race to get to the quarterback first.
But what’s racing through Williams’ mind is what’s most interesting.
If Nick Saban described his defense as having some “pretty hateful guys,” Williams might have the most ferocious outlook of them all.
“Eat. Destroy. Predator. Conquer,” Williams said. “Anything. I really feel when I come off the edge I can’t be stopped. I just have that much confidence in my skills.”
As do his teammates.
Defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne called him “relentless.”
Tight end O.J. Howard described him as having a “killer mentality.”
Allen said he studies Williams’ ability to get off blocks, and inside linebacker Rashaan Evans said Williams is a constant mismatch because “he’s one of the fastest guys in the NCAA right now, especially his first step.”
"He gets in a zone," Evans said.
A word to the wise for No. 4 Washington as it prepares to face No. 1 Alabama in the playoff: Don’t light a fire under Williams.
Williams said a first-half suspension against Kentucky “sparked” him earlier this season. He came out in the second half of that game and immediately made a stop behind the line of scrimmage. He finished with a sack, two quarterback hits and three tackles for loss against the Wildcats. The next week, he had a sack and returned a fumble for a touchdown against Arkansas.
"Ever since then," Williams said, " I just feel like I can't be stopped."
And Williams’ advice for stopping him and his teammates?
“Bring your heart,” he said. “Because everyone on our team has heart.”
He added: “We know everybody wants to beat us. We’re the No. 1 team, undefeated, have all these accolades going for us. So we’re going to get every team’s best.”
If beating Washington means stopping quarterback Jake Browning, then Alabama might have the perfect weapon.
The Huskies' offense is quick, but so is Tim Williams.