The nose tackle is a crucial component to the success of a 3-4 defense. A nose tackle that can control the point of attack will allow other players on the defense to shine, and allow some more creativity from the defensive coordinator. One of the more skilled and widely recognized 3-4 defenses in the NCAA is that of the Alabama Crimson Tide. While the thing people tend to focus on most with this defense is the defensive backfield, mainly due to Nick Saban’s expertise, Alabama’s recent nose tackles have also been at the forefront of discussion. We can start by looking at Terrence Cody, whose massive size and potential left many draft fans mesmerized. Following Mount Cody, was Josh Chapman, who was of a much different mold. In scouting circles, the most common way to refer to Chapman was as a fire hydrant. He only stood at 6 feet tall, and this gave him a massive leverage advantage against taller linemen. Combine this advantage with Chapman’s hand placement, and you had a nose tackle that was extraordinarily efficient at his craft of being difficult to move off the ball, even if he lacked the same imposing size.
This year, Alabama has a nose tackle that’s a bit of a fusion between the two, with his own added bonuses. The player I’m referring to is Jesse Williams. If you haven’t caught much of the Tide this season, but still recognize the name, it’s likely because his 600 pound bench press over the summer caught a lot of media attention. When you combine that ridiculous raw strength, with his massive 6’4, 325 pound frame, you can see why some people would be drooling over his potential like they once were with Terrence Cody.
When discussing on the field play, Williams shares quite a few similarities with Josh Chapman. The main aspect that these two players share is their ability to “clog the running lane”. This means that they are able to provide a solid anchor against an on-coming blocker, and force the running back to make a quick decision while the linebackers have freedom to diagnose and stop the play due to the blockers being tied up. Pictured below is a good example of this. The play was a 4th and 1 run, in which the Volunteers were hoping to slam the ball up to middle to convert:
Another essential trait that both players share is their ability to control the double team. It is important to remember that the job of the nose tackle goes beyond just not getting pushed back into the linebacker’s face. The nose also wants to occupy, or perhaps better said, preoccupy, the 2 men that are sent to block him. This can be achieved through a variety of different ways, with the two most common being to either go down to a knee (tougher to move) combined with an attempt to split the block, or to engage with the primary blocker, while shifting the hips and backside into the second blocker. Shown below is the result of what happened when Williams chose the latter of the two. Williams is shown by the white arrow. As you can see, he has not only managed to anchor, but he has managed to get some push on his primary blocker. However, the key component to this play is the linebacker that is circled in red. Due to Williams “occupying” the double, the linebacker had longer to read the play, and it took the second blocker longer than he would have liked to get there. This allows the linebacker to barely get touched, and make the big tackle.
While Chapman fell to the 6th round due to injury concerns, many would agree the skills he showed in the run game warranted a much higher pick. Seeing how Williams shares many of these same skills (although he is not quite as refined as Chapman), along with the freakish size of Cody, the future come April looks very promising for Williams as teams seek to fill this vital position. One thing that makes Williams a superior prospect to both, and that could vault him into first round talk, is his agility. While he hasn’t shown much more than an ability to occasionally walk his man backwards as a pass rusher, there is a natural skillset there to be honed. Alabama seeks to attempt to take advantage of this on occasion much more than they ever would have dreamed of doing with Cody/Chapman.
Due to the fact that Williams is far from a linear athlete like most players his size are, he moves down the line of scrimmage very well, and with strong balance. Once again, this allows coaches to be more liberal with their stunts and blitz package looks. These movement skills also translate well to Williams making plays in the run game. While Williams isn’t making the same number of tackles Chapman did, he possesses the ability to make more in the NFL. As of now, his issue at the time being is general ball awareness, but I think that’s an issue you’d be willing to try and correct given the potential dynamic ability of Jesse Williams.