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Alabama OL Jonah Williams could be the best left tackle under Nick Saban

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

The experiment with Ross Pierschbacher at center was not carried all the way out prior to last season; however, Jonah Williams to left tackle has the makings of seeing Alabama’s offensive line be scary good in the upcoming fall. Williams, a California native and five-star prospect, showed to be every bit as good as advertised at right tackle through 15 games as a freshman.

Following his high school career, the 6-foot-5 and 301-pounder earned Freshman All-American honors from USA Today and ESPN in 2016. He earned a spot on the Southeastern Conference’s All-Freshman Team, while garnering second team All-SEC honors via the Associated Press. His footwork, hand strength and overall technique on the outside led to the Tide having the best scoring offense in the SEC — 38.8 points a contest.

Williams cleared the right side for 11 100-yard rushing games a season ago, including four 100-yard performances from quarterback Jalen Hurts and running back Damien Harris. He accounted for 29 knockdown blocks and did not allow a sack in eight of 15 games. As far as blocking assignments go, Williams graded out in the mid to high 80s in all but two matchups. His percentages of 88 percent versus Washington (CFP semifinal) and 89 percent against Florida in the 2016 SEC championship game were both team highs.

Williams’ grade of 90 percent versus Tennessee was his highest mark, as he set the edge for 409 yards rushing and 594 yards total. Before taking on the Huskies in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, offensive guard Ross Pierschbacher was one of multiple players that spoke during a media viewing period on Dec. 19, 2016.

“It’s like sitting next to Coach Brent Key when you watch film with Jonah Williams,” Pierschbacher said. “That’s just how Jonah is built, and it’s why he has been so successful because he has a football mind and he loves the game. He’s kind of fun to be around.”

It may be the first time for him at left tackle at Alabama, but Williams is not new to the position. He played it throughout his high school tenure at Folsom, and during spring ball he said the transition has been smooth.

“It was good,” Williams told reporters in his first practice at left tackle. “After workouts I would go with Ross (Pierschbacher) and some of my buddies and work from the left tackle spot to get a feel for it.”

To help him stay focused, Williams taught himself some new tricks.

“I’ve been eating and writing with my left hand,” he said. “Just trying to be a little ambidextrous.”

He was rarely penalized a season ago, which gave him the chance to set up and either shield in pass protection or open lanes in the rushing attack. With Cam Robinson in the National Football League and six backs flooding the roster, keeping experience at left tackle was a pivotal move for Alabama. For the most part, Williams did a solid job of protecting Jalen Hurts’ front side. He enabled the native Texan to compiled 2,780 passing yards, 954 rushing yards and 36 total touchdowns – en route to winning the SEC’s Freshman Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year. As we continue through the offseason, his focus now shifts to making sure the back side of his sophomore quarterback is intact. Williams looks to be the sixth left tackle of the Nick Saban era in Tuscaloosa, joining Robinson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Barrett Jones, James Carpenter and Andre Smith.

Stephen M. Smith is a managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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