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Alabama’s Jonah Williams hoping to cap a month to savor

Alabama junior left tackle Jonah Williams is having a December to remember.

The 6-foot-5, 301-pounder from Folsom, California, began this month by helping the Crimson Tide rally past Georgia for a 35-28 triumph in the Southeastern Conference championship game. Williams then was voted a unanimous All-American at one of football’s most valuable positions and earned his marketing degree in less than three full years on the Tuscaloosa campus.

“It was one of my big goals when I was coming here,” Williams said in a news conference this month. “I wanted to start. I wanted to be an All-American, and I wanted to graduate in three years. It was a plan I set in motion in high school. I graduated from high school early and took several AP (advanced placement) classes to get some credits and get ahead. It’s exciting, and it’s a testament not only to my work but everything the academic staff does.

“We get a leg up with registration priorities, and that’s a big plus.”

Alabama held its second workout in Miami on Tuesday, practicing for two hours in full pads at Barry University. The workout was the ninth of 12 total practices in preparation for Saturday night’s Orange Bowl national semifinal between the No. 1 Crimson Tide (13-0) and No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1).

The Tide had started their on-campus practices when the school held its graduation ceremony Dec. 15. Williams, backup quarterback Jalen Hurts and reserve tight end Miller Forristall each received a diploma that day, and they comprised three of Alabama’s eight early enrollees in January 2016.

Hurts even received an ovation at the ceremony, having replaced an injured Tua Tagovailoa against Georgia early in the fourth quarter and guiding Alabama out of a 28-21 hole.

“It feels like yesterday when we came in with zero credits, zero games started and zero any of that,” Williams said. “It’s cool to go through all of that with your friends and your brothers and get a degree in the end. A degree is priceless.”

It’s also been cool for Williams to earn unanimous All-America honors, which means he was voted college’s top left tackle by the Walter Camp Foundation, the Football Writers Association of America, the Associated Press, The Sporting News and the American Football Coaches Association. Williams has 44 knockdown blocks this season and has graded out at 90 percent or higher in 12 of 13 games for an average grade of 91.4.

Williams has missed only three assignments in 773 snaps at left tackle and has not allowed a sack.

“He’s a really conscientious guy, and he’s one of those guys who’s a perfectionist,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “He wants to be the best player, and he’s one of those guys who’s willing to do the things that you have to do to be the best player.”

Williams this month also earned the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, which is voted on by SEC coaches and given to the league’s top offensive lineman, and he is being projected as a top-10 pick in the 2019 NFL draft should he elect to forgo his senior season.

Alabama already has set single-season program records for points and passing yards, with Williams aiding an attack that averages 527.6 total yards and 47.9 points a game. The Tide’s scoring offense ranks second nationally to Oklahoma’s 49.5-point clip, but the Sooners are an abysmal 108th in total defense (allowing 448.1 yards a game) and 96th in scoring defense (32.4).

“They have a talented defense that will fly around,” Williams said. “They’ve made plays in big games. I was watching the West Virginia game, which was a back-and-forth game, and they had a strip-sack fumble recovery for a touchdown. When you are in one of those games where you have to keep scoring, if they stop you and get points off of it, it’s a 14-point swing.”

Williams, who has been a quick study of Alabama football history and wears the same No. 73 that John Hannah once wore, was asked this month whether high-scoring or low-scoring contests were more nerve-racking for him.

“They can both be intense,” Williams said. “I think back to LSU my freshman year, and it was 0-0 entering the fourth quarter. There was all this pressure of, ‘We just need to do something.’

“We haven’t had a whole lot of shootout games. We got down 14 against Georgia, but I think we’re built for either one.”

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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