The third-year defensive lineman has been given the bulk of first-team reps at nose tackle and has earned high marks from his defensive coordinator and fellow teammates.
“Ian has been amazing so far,” six-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker
Willis went on to rave about Williams’ “natural ability to move” as a 6-foot-1, 305-pound defensive lineman.
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Willis also pointed to Williams being strong enough to anchor at the point of attack against double-team blocks, but also skillful enough to beat one-on-one blocks in the trenches.
“As a middle linebacker, that’s what you love to see,” Willis said.
“Ian’s worked extremely hard since he’s gotten here from day one, but really kicked it up this offseason,“ Fangio said. “He’s played very well.”
Williams credited his performance to the two years he spent as a reserve lineman. Williams also showed tremendous commitment in the offseason by dropping weight.
“He’s always been a good worker here, but he just kicked it up a notch,” Fangio said of the young lineman who has appeared in four games and has seven tackles to his credit. “I think he saw an opportunity, we signed him to an extension which gave him a message. Two nose tackles ahead of him are no longer here. I think he’s matured as a worker and as a professional football player.”
San Francisco signed Williams to a two-year extension in early March which showed a commitment to the player they signed as an undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame in 2011.
Williams looks back on his early days with the 49ers and appreciates the lessons he learned.
“It was vital to where I am right now,” Williams said. “Coming into a good situation with a veteran crew around me and guys who really took me under their wing and taught me, even though I was coming in to compete at their position, those guys really brought me under their wing.”
Williams worked hard this offseason with veteran defensive tackles
Fangio thinks Williams is in better shape to handle the role should he beat out Dorsey to be the starting nose tackle.
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“In the past I think he’s been able to play a play or two at times, but if he had to play three or four or five in a row, his conditioning would show up and now he’s in much better condition,” Fangio said.
Williams feels it, too.
“I can feel a great difference. We haven’t been in a game yet, but at practice, working out here really has me ready.”
Williams’ conditioning has improved, but he’s always been a talented player.
“He’s the kind of guy you like to play against,” the starting right guard said. “Gives you good reps, really gives you a good feel for how it’s going to be in a game."
Williams has turned into a quality professional lineman in a short period of time. Fangio couldn’t exactly pinpoint why Williams went undrafted, but thinks the 49ers are fortunate to have the young lineman competing on defense.
“Trust me, he should’ve been drafted,” the respected coordinator said.