SAN JOSE -- Quinnen Williams entered the 2018 season stressed. The nose guard wanted to crack Alabama's starting lineup, a modest goal that wasn't guaranteed.
Spots are never secure with the Crimson Tide, where internal competition is as fierce as anything the program faces from the outside.
The converted edge rusher believed he would make a profound impact if given an opportunity to work inside. He got one, and made the most of it.
The 21-year-old whom teammates call a “300-pound bar of soap” has risen to national prominence in one amazing season, and he's now considered a consensus top-five NFL draft pick. If, of course, he formally turns pro after Monday night's College Football Playoff national championship game versus Clemson at Levi’s Stadium.
Here’s why: Williams is doing things that 6-foot-4, 295-pound players shouldn’t, with a combination of athleticism, quickness and power rare for a man his size. He has 67 tackles, eight sacks and 18 tackles for a loss, creating havoc with interior pressure. He is a modern, hybrid interior lineman who could be coveted by NFL teams trying to combat pass-happy, quick-release quarterbacks.
“He's got a lot of versatility to his game, his initial quickness, his body and balance control,” Alabama defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi said Saturday during the CFP national championship media day at SAP Center. “He can hurt you. He plays with power. He utilizes his hands well, and above all that stuff, it's who he is inside. He's an animal.”
A pretty nice one -- in front of the cameras, anyway. Williams seems to be a happy-go-lucky guy, enjoying this crazy ride and the accolades that come with it.
“This year has been a blessing,” Williams said. “It has been an amazing process this year. I’m enjoys the fruits of a lot of hard work.”
Pretty soon, those fruits could turn into cold, hard cash. Some draft analysts believe Williams might be picked in the top two or be the first name called in the April draft.
“I haven’t allowed myself to think about that,” Williams said. “I really haven’t thought much about the draft or the NFL. I see it on Twitter and all that, but I don’t dig much into it or spend much time on it. I’m focused on winning a national championship.”
Williams was focused on rising up Alabama’s depth chart this summer, nothing more.
“I didn’t even think I was going to start at the beginning of this year,” Williams said. “I was working on the transition from defensive end to nose guard. We have a lot of guys who could’ve had that position. There were a lot of guys I had to outwork on my own team just to start and play.”
Williams could parlay one excellent season into a top draft selection. It could come from the Raiders at No. 4 overall, despite them selecting defensive tackles P.J. Hall (second round) and Maurice Hurst (fifth round) last season.
Williams is a special talent -- some might say "flash in the pan" at this stage -- without much experience. He believes a long line of Alabama defensive linemen currently thriving in the NFL can show him the way, and he stays in contact with several, including Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen.
“I already have like the blueprints on how the NFL goes and stuff like that,” Williams said. “They just give me advice along the way and just teach me what do.”