The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Samford defensive tackle Nick Williams in the seventh and final round of the 2013 NFL draft with hopes of eventually turning him into a 3-4 defensive end. Samford defensive coordinator Bill D\'Ottavio was a guest of David Todd\'s this past week on ESPN 970 radio and was asked to talk about his former player.
D\'Ottavio was first asked to talk about what kind of player the Steelers were getting in Williams.
"I think they got a great guy, right there in Nick," said D\'Ottavio. "Obviously he was an excellent football player for us, and he\'s an excellent young man first and foremost. The exciting thing about Nick is that he has continued to develop throughout his career and I think he has a great upside."
With Williams being a former basketball player in high school, D\'Ottavio was asked to talk a little bit about the transformation that he has made to becoming a football player.
"When we recruited him, he had the big frame and we knew he was going to be a big guy," D\'Ottavio said. "You could see power in his body, it was just a matter of him going through the process of going from a basketball body to a football body and developing the tools of the game, so to speak. So it was a process with him, but the exciting thing about Nick was he kept working. He found a weight room. He got bigger and stronger, and it seemed that every time we hit the practice field he got better, and eventually became one of the top football players in this league."
D\'Ottavio was next asked how he used Williams at Samford and if indeed he translate to a 3-4 defensive end at the next level.
"He was pretty much an inside player for us, because we\'re a 4-3 base, but the Steelers and the 3-4 system, that would be an end type of guy that plays on the tackle and sometimes inside tackle, and sometimes on the edges of the tackle," said the Samford defensive coordinator. "So he would fit that scheme very nicely for what he did here."
Later, D\'Ottavio was asked to single out something that he thought would be strength for Williams at the next level.
"He\'s very good against the run," said D\'Ottavio. "He\'s very strong with his hands and he\'s a hard guy to move. I think he\'ll do a great job of anchoring his gap and being able to handle the blocking scheme at the point right there. His pass rush game has made strides, but obviously in our league, he was very good at that. I think that\'s an area that he\'ll continue to work at and continue to improve. He\'s just going to have to adapt system wise."
D\'Ottavio would go on to say that Williams learns the game well and that he was better at the end of year than start of year.
During the post selection press conference, Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell was upfront and honest about Williams, who he called a project.
"He is a young guy," said Mitchell. "He is not going to come in here and replace anybody. He is probably not going to play. He is a project. But you can’t get guys that are 6’4” 320 pounds that can run and look like a guy that is 310 pounds. I like this guy. He didn’t dominate right there in Samford. He only started two years there, but I think his football is ahead of him rather than behind him."
As I posted in my break down of Williams, his tape will not wow you, but he certainly looks more like a 3-4 defensive end than he does a 4-3 defensive tackle. His measurables are off the chart and now he will have to learn not only how to better use those measurables to his advantage on the football field, but a new position in a new style of defense as well.