TUSCALOOSA | Jesse Williams, by all accounts, is a different football player today than he was when he arrived at the University of Alabama last winter.
The Austrailian-born defensive lineman has picked up not only a football education, but cultural and academic ones as well. But it will be his progress in football that will face its stiffest test yet Saturday when UA plays host to LSU.
"I think Jesse has been one of our most consistent players up front in terms of doing the things we're asking him to do. He's a very conscientious guy, he's very smart, and bright," said UA coach Nick Saban.
Williams has made 12 tackles this season, including 3.5 for losses and an assisted sack. More importantly, however, he has developed over time to become more comfortable with all things football: his responsibilities and his competition alike.
"He has come a long way from camp, and when he first got here," said linebacker Nico Johnson. "... He's getting to the point where he's comfortable with what he's doing. He's helping out a lot keeping linemen off me."
Against LSU, the 6-foot-3, 325-pound Williams will face a stronger, more physical offensive line than what he has competed against to date.
"We're just going to have to do what we do and play our kind of football, be more physical than they are," Williams said.
Added Saban: "The progress he made from spring practice to this season was phenomenal. He's continued to make that improvement throughout the year and do a really good job."
Two in town
That ESPN's College Game Day crew is on campus despite the fact that the game is being carried by CBS speaks to the gravity of Saturday's No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. But the frequency with which Game Day plants itself for games aired outside the ESPN family of networks shows it is has no qualms about doing so when the matchup calls for it.
According to ESPN, it has aired College Game Day 46 times since 1993 at games aired by other networks, an average of more than twice per season.
The last time it happened, Game Day was in Columbia, S.C., for Alabama's upset loss to the Gamecocks before a CBS audience last season. It happened five times during the 2009 regular season.
"Both guys are practicing now, and they're competing. We'll play the best player, which I think is our obligation as coaches to our team, to play the best players." - Saban on the competition at right guard between Alfred McCullough and Anthony Steen.
Did you know?
LSU quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee have a combined record of 33-11 as starters. Lee is 13-4 in his career, while Jefferson is 20-7.
Fifty years ago today, UA's Denny Stadium braced to host its largest crowd ever as more than 40,000 for the Crimson Tide's win over Mississippi State during the 1961 national championship season. Three weeks earlier, UA unveiled a 12,000-seat expansion for a home win over North Carolina State. ... ESPN's College Game Day set will be at the Walk of Champions outside Bryant-Denny Stadium along University Boulevard. ... Former NFL All-Pro Cris Carter, the father of UA receiver Duron Carter, was among visitors to Wednesday's practice. The younger Carter is practicing with the team but is expected to sit out the remainder of the season due to an academic issue.
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Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.