Alabama's ability to rack up national championships and NFL draft picks under coach Nick Saban has resulted in the annual offseason challenge of younger Crimson Tide players having to step up to fill big shoes.
Quinnen Williams, a redshirt sophomore defensive lineman, is well aware of the towering task.
"The defensive line runs things around here," Williams said in a recent news conference. "In the past, you've had Jonathan Allen, Da'Ron Payne, Dalvin Tomlinson and A'Shawn Robinson. You've had a lot of great leaders on this defensive line who really ran the defense and made sure everyone was in order.
"We want to be that kind of defensive line. We don't want any falloff from last year."
A day after visiting the White House to get honored for last season's national championship, Alabama returned to practice Wednesday afternoon, working out for two hours in full pads.
"I was really pleased and proud with the way our guys handled the White House trip," Saban said Wednesday night in a news conference. "It was a really positive experience for them."
Williams, a 6-foot-4, 289-pounder from Birmingham, is part of a defensive line that has moved on without Payne, Joshua Frazier and Da'Shawn Hand. Williams played in all 14 games as a redshirt freshman and was impressive, tallying 20 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
Isaiah Buggs and Raekwon Davis also are back up front defensively, along with Johnny Dwight, Phidarian Mathis and LaBryan Ray. Saban has expressed some concern about depth in this position group, and there is also the matter of who will start where when the Crimson Tide open Sept. 1 against Louisville in Orlando.
"It really doesn't matter where they put me," Williams said. "Everybody is getting reps at everything."
Williams is not only adjusting to the three departures on the defensive front but a new coaching lineup. Tosh Lupoi is now Alabama's defensive coordinator, having that role added several weeks ago after three seasons as outside linebackers coach, while Craig Kuligowski is the Tide's new defensive line coach.
Karl Dunbar, who is now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, worked with Williams his first two seasons in Tuscaloosa.
"Coach Saban is going to recruit the best and hire the best, so you feel confident in whatever he does," Williams said. "Whoever he brings in is going to be the best, and he's going to help you."
Alabama redshirt freshman receiver Tyrell Shavers will miss the rest of spring after injuring a ligament in his big toe during last Saturday's scrimmage. The 6-6, 213-pounder from Lewisville, Texas, required surgery, Saban said.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.