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January 22, 2013

Williams looks to impress at Senior Bowl

MOBILE | It's not as if Michael Williams isn't doing all he can to show NFL coaches and scouts that he is more than just a blocker at the Senior Bowl this week. The former University of Alabama tight end, primarily, was just that in his college career.

He knows the eyes on him this week will be watching for these question marks: Can he catch? Can he get open against man coverage? Is he fast enough?

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But the Reform native knows his strengths as well. And he's not afraid to let those strengths -- his size (6-6, 269 pounds) and his ability to open holes for a rushing attack -- do most of the talking for him.

As for the question marks?

"I have to learn to get out of my breaks (on pass routes) faster than what I am right now," Williams said. "But the speed won't change as much. I am who I am. But I feel like I can get you first downs. I can get you touchdowns in the red area. I can do that, I just have to show that."

UA coach Nick Saban said there is plenty of room in the NFL for a blocker of Williams' caliber, but praised ability to catch as well. Williams caught a career-high 24 passes as a senior, for 183 yards and four touchdowns.

"Maybe sometimes people don't appreciate guys that are really good blockers and are great role players for their team," Saban said. "Michael's got really good hands, and some people would say 'Well, he's not a real big threat vertically down the field with his speed,' but I think there is a place for guys like Michael Williams, who are tough, physical, great competitors that have good hands and can make plays if they need to."

Junior Day:

Andrew Bone takes you inside the list of elite 2014 prospects gathering for Alabama's Junior Day event.

Williams is projected as a sixth-round draft pick by Nfldraftscout.com, and is rated the 10th-best prospect available at his position. Other online draft services have Williams being taken as early as round five. Williams has faced some of the nation's top linebackers in coverage at practice this week. On one play, it's former UA teammate Nico Johnson. On another, it might be Texas A&M's Sean Porter or Missouri's Zaviar Gooden. And in Saturday's game against the North squad, face the likes of Ohio State's John Simon and Rutgers' Khaseem Greene.

He'll have a couple of advantages. Williams said the South squad playbook looked very familiar to him when he first opened it, with the Pro-style offense similar to the one Saban uses at UA. He also believes the Senior Bowl, a showcase for playing ability, is a better way for him to impress NFL clubs than through the NFL Combine, which is a showcase in raw and measurable athletic ability.

"The Senior Bowl is built a lot on effort, and you control your effort. I think this is better for me," Williams said. I'm just working. I am criticizing myself every day about how to do this or do that."

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.

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