Oh, how times have changed.
Alabama’s Quinnen Williams remembers playing just three or four snaps in last year’s national championship game. This is the same defensive lineman who has started every game this season and leads the team in tackles for loss with 18.
Safe to say Williams’ snap count will be significantly higher this time around, as No. 1 Alabama will play No. 2 Clemson for the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
“I’m very excited,” Williams said Tuesday. “This whole season, I’ve been excited just to play because I knew I came from not playing and just watching for two years, and I’m starting now. So every game, I go into the game like: Man, I get to play.”
He has made the most out of his opportunities, too.
The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Birmingham native is Alabama’s third-leading tackler with 67 total stops. He has eight sacks and 12 quarterback hurries. He scored the Crimson Tide’s only safety this season.
“There’s a lot I can do to handle the game,” Williams said. “Last year, I couldn’t do a lot because I was rotating. … I can make an impact, so I really want to make that impact.”
Williams, a nose guard, won the Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s best interior lineman. He was also a unanimous first-team All-American.
Because Williams is a redshirt sophomore, he has the option to leave UA early and declare for the NFL draft.
“I’m not really thinking about all that decision,” Williams said. “I just want to dominate in this game. I just want to finish this game with another ring. Hey, them rings look good.”
Setting the record straight
Junior linebacker Mack Wilson has frequently been noted as one of Alabama’s most active participants on social media platforms like Twitter but his traffic increased significantly after video of Wilson being taken out on a blindside block by Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb went viral this week.
“Of course,” Wilson responded on Tuesday when asked whether he had received increased Twitter attention after the Lamb block. “I feel like it was a good block. I’d do the same thing. But one thing I can say is, if that was me doing the blocking, that person would have never gotten up.
“I bounced right back up. It didn’t hurt much. But I feel like he made a great play that gave them momentum to go down and score after that drive.”
Wilson showed his good nature about the play later on New Year’s Day. After LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was leveled on a similar hit during a UCF interception return, but got back up to lead the Tigers to a Fiesta Bowl victory, Wilson tweeted Burrow to say “Hell yeah Joe. It happens to the best! I know the feeling.”
Wilson added that he didn’t use social media to be confrontational.
“I really don’t pay attention to it,” Wilson said. “I might run across it and talk to myself, but I really don’t go back-and-forth with (anybody) on social media. God put me in this position…for a reason and I thank him every day for it, so there’s no way a person who doesn’t know football (can) tell me nothing. So I just look across it.”
The national championship game in 2016 between Alabama and Clemson was tied when UA coach Nick Saban calledl an onside kick. It worked. Former Alabama defensive back Marlon Humphrey recovered it, and the Crimson Tide scored on that drive and ultimately won the game.
“It was crazy,” junior offensive lineman Jonah Williams said Tuesday. “Me and all the early enrollees were in Bryant (Hall) watching it on TV, and we were just freaking out when it happened because that was such a momentum swing in the game. That’s the type of thing this game takes. When you’re playing a great team, sometimes you have to take risks.”
People may think Saban isn’t much of a gambler, but he’ll do what’s needed as long it’s “a smart, calculated risk,” like Williams put it.
“Well,” Saban said on Monday’s CFP teleconference, “I think when you’re playing against a very good team and you can anticipate that it’s going to be a really tight game that you’re always looking for somewhere or someplace in the game where you can create an advantage for yourself and try to put your players in the best position to have a chance to be success.”
Sports Editor Cecil Hurt contributed to this notebook. Reach Terrin Waack at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.