Jordan Williams arrived to Clemson last summer with the expectation he would be a defensive end. He was rated as one of the nation’s top defensive ends in high school, and that was the position the Tigers recruited him to.
However, it didn’t take long for Williams to realize that his future was actually as an interior defensive lineman. He came in at about 285 pounds, and the Tigers felt he was more physically suited to play the three-technique defensive tackle position.
So they put him there in fall camp, and Williams began making the transition as a freshman. He had some experience at defensive tackle from his days at Cox High School in Virginia, but admitted the full-time move inside was still a big adjustment.
“I played everything on the line (in high school),” Williams told The Clemson Insider recently. “I played end, tackle, nose. I played everything, so it’s just different. But coming in right away, I felt more comfortable at defensive end.”
Williams, who was billed as a four-star recruit, was used to bowling over and out-muscling lesser competition in high school. But he quickly learned that it takes more than strength to succeed on the defensive front in college.
The native of Virginia Beach, Va., had to work on refining his technique while getting used to the speed of the game.
“It’s completely different,” Williams said of playing tackle as opposed to end. “Everything has to be much quicker. It takes time to adjust to, but I feel like I’ve been getting better with it.”
It’s easy to see why Williams stood to benefit from a redshirt year, and he feels the time to take a step back and learn has been valuable.
Williams said he has tried to absorb as much knowledge as possible from both the coaches and players ahead of him.
“I’ve been able to take in a lot of learning, doing a whole lot with the team that I wasn’t a part of when I was being recruited of course,” Williams said. “But it’s been a lot, just taking in a lot of coaching from the coaches and the players as well. It’s been great, just trying to soak everything in.”
Williams made gains in his first year as a Tiger, both mentally and physically. He now stands at 6-foot-4, 295 pounds after putting on about 10 pounds of good weight. His max on the bench press is up to 345.
Williams credited the team’s strength and conditioning program, called “Power Hour,” for his improvement in the weight room.
“It helped me greatly,” he said. “My high school didn’t take weights as seriously as most do, so I was little behind coming in. But the “Power Hour” definitely pushed me and helped me get stronger, quicker and faster.”
Williams believes the reps and experience he got during Clemson’s “JV practices” last month will help him moving forward, as well.
“We did a lot of individual stuff, and then we scrimmaged of course,” Williams said. “The scrimmages were fun, being that we hadn’t truly hit anybody since fall camp.”
Looking ahead to next season, the former national top-150 prospect is hopeful to start making his mark for the Tigers in the trenches.
“I hope to improve on my technique more, my hand placement and my footwork,” Williams said. “I really just hope to come in and try to make an impact early.”