ATLANTA — While No. 1 Alabama may have opened things up offensively this season, everything still begins and ends at one place — the line of scrimmage.
Which is why the Outland Trophy is such a coveted award inside the Crimson Tide locker room.
It also pitted two Alabama teammates — junior offensive tackle Jonah Williams and sophomore defensive tackle Quinnen Williams — against one another as two of three finalists vying to be named college football’s top interior lineman Thursday.
“I think it’s really exciting for Alabama specifically, because we pride ourselves on winning the line of scrimmage,” Jonah Williams said Wednesday. “So I think to have two of the best (three) linemen be a guy from each side of the ball says a lot about how we try to approach the game and win the line of scrimmage.”
For at least one night, Quinnen Williams won that battle, taking home the Outland Trophy during Thursday evening’s College Football Award show from inside the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
The two Williamses were among five Crimson Tide players up for a total of seven national awards presented Thursday evening, joining sophomore receiver Jerry Jeudy and sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as winners in attendance for the ESPN-televised live awards show.
Tagovailoa kicked off the night by being named the Walter Camp Foundation national player of the year, edging fellow finalists in fellow quarterbacks Will Grier of West Virginia, Gardner Minshew II of Washington State and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, as well as Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen. Tagovailoa, who has rewritten Alabama record books this season with a single-season program record 37 touchdowns, capped the evening by winning the Maxwell Award, presented to the nation’s most outstanding college football player.
Quinnen Williams is the fifth Alabama player to win the Outland, but the first defensive lineman, joining former offensive linemen Chris Samuels (1999), Andre Smith (2008), Barrett Jones (2011), and Cam Robinson (2016). Jones presented the award during the ESPN broadcast. Quinnen Williams was also a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, presented to the nation’s top defensive player, which went to Kentucky’s Allen, who was a standout at Abbeville High before transferring before his senior season to a school in New Jersey.
“Every time I go against Jonah, I’m going to give him my best game like I’m going against another dude on another team, and he’s going to give me his best game like I’m Myles Garrett or somebody,” Quinnen Williams said Wednesday. “We just really try to compete against each other (at practice), and I’m just thankful to have him on my team, you know what I’m saying. I hope he wins and I know he hopes I win, so I congratulate him for just being a finalist, and I’m blessed to be a finalist (with him).”
Tagovailoa, who was sporting a heavy walking boat around his surgically repaired left ankle, is the third Alabama player to win the Maxwell Award, joining former Tide running back Derrick Henry in 2015 and former quarterback AJ McCarron in 2013. He’s also the second Tide player to win the Walter Camp award, as voted on by FBS head coaches and information directors, joining Henry in the honor. The last five winners of the Walter Camp player of the year award have gone onto win the Heisman, including Henry.
Jeudy, Tagovailoa’s favorite target this season, saw a dream come true Thursday when he was named the Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation’s top receiver after leading Alabama with 1,103 yards and a SEC-leading 12 touchdowns on 59 receptions this season. Jeudy is the second Crimson Tide player to win the award, joining fellow South Florida product Amari Cooper in 2014.
“It would mean a lot, knowing how hard I work, for something like that (to happen). It would be a dream come true,” Jeudy said Wednesday night. “I’ve always dreamed about something like this, and now that I’m here (and) it actually could happen, it’s just a great feeling and I’m very thankful. I give that all to God, my family and my teammates.”
Alabama senior center Ross Pierschbacher was also a finalist for the Rimington Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top center, which was presented to North Carolina State’s Garrett Bradbury.
Tagovailoa was also a finalist for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback of the Year award, which went to Kyler Murray of Oklahoma.
The two signal callers, who square off when the top-ranked Crimson Tide and No. 4 Sooners meet in the Orange Bowl national semifinal Dec. 29 from Miami, will see other again this weekend as two of the three finalists for the Heisman Trophy, which will be presented Saturday evening in the PlayStation Theatre in Times Square, New York City.