Fully healthy again, Clemson defensive tackle Jordan Williams is back on the field for fall camp and doing his best to take on a leadership role at a position of need.
The Power Rangers – defensive linemen Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Austin Bryant – have all moved on to the NFL after helping the Tigers capture another national championship in 2018.
So, the redshirt sophomore Williams is trying to step up and be a leader of Clemson’s D-line unit heading into the 2019 season. The Virginia Beach native is taking it upon himself to be a presence that younger players such as Ruke Orhorhoro, Darnell Jefferies, Etinosa Rueben and Tyler Davis can look up to, learn from and lean on.
“It’s definitely a new role, especially for me,” Williams said Friday following Clemson’s first practice of fall camp. “Nyles (Pinckney) was the guy, out of all of us, that had the most experience. I would say him and Justin (Foster). So, it’s definitely a different role for a lot of us.
“But I feel like me personally, seeing how it’s been done before, seeing how they were leaders to me, I’ve been able to implement those things with guys like Ruke, Darnell, X (Xavier Kelly), ET and Tyler. So, it hasn’t been too much of a change.”
As big as the void is left by Wilkins, Lawrence, Bryant and Ferrell, Williams says “there’s no difference at all” as the Tigers get ready to play without them this season.
Williams is confident that the new Clemson defensive line, featuring guys like Pinckney, Foster, Logan Rudolph, K.J. Henry and Xavier Thomas, will pick up right where the Power Rangers left off.
“Me and Nyles, Justin, Logan, Xavier and K.J., we’ve all been some great leaders,” Williams said. “We appreciate everything those guys did for us, but we’re going to build our own legacy. We don’t want to be Christian, Dex, Austin and Cle – we want to be our own defensive line.”
After recording 13 tackles (3.0 for loss), 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 147 snaps across 12 games in 2018, Williams enters the 2019 season as a projected starter at defensive tackle.
The former four-star prospect and U.S. Army All-American missed all of spring practice due to a lower leg injury, but told the media that he felt like he was back to 100 percent toward the middle of summer workouts. He entered fall camp at 303 pounds, and with the injury behind him, is focused on conditioning and preparing his body to handle a bigger workload this fall.
“It felt good,” he said of his return to the field. “I was a little winded. Just a little bit, but it’s good getting back in the groove of things. I was really just excited to be back out there, running around. It just felt good to be back out there.”