Ian Williams has dominated the first-team reps at nose tackle thus far in camp and is well on his way to winning the starting job for the third consecutive season.
The San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman is entering his fifth NFL season since signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2011. Williams started the first nine games for the 49ers in 2014 before having his second-straight season end prematurely due to injury.
Now with a clean bill of health, Williams is poised to be a standout amongst a deep group of 49ers defensive linemen. He recently took the podium and gave his expectations for the 2015 season, both individually and for the team as a whole.
Here are the top five topics Williams covered.
- On Saturday night after the team's first practice, all the players watched the Ronda Rousey fight from the locker room. Williams said that the team has had a healthy balance of fun camaraderie and a business mentality thus far in camp.
"There's a good buzz I would say," Williams said. "Guys are just working. Guys have a narrow path of trying to go to work."
- Every defensive lineman that speaks to the media is greeted with questions about replacing Justin Smith. Williams took his turn, taking the opportunity to support the two guys who have been starting next to him so far in camp: Quinton Dial and Glenn Dorsey.
"You can't just replace a Justin Smith or a Ray McDonald like that," Williams said. "But you can have guys who learned from those two. Glenn is a great player and has a lot of athleticism to him and a lot of technique to him. Guys can trust him. You know what you're getting out of Glenn. Quinton Dial is a young guy who is getting better every day and every practice. I see it for myself, the coaches see it and the other players see it."
- When Justin Smith retired, he tabbed Williams as one of the most promising defensive linemen on the 49ers roster.
"I think a guy that's not talked about much because he's got injuries is Ian Williams," Smith said. "I think he's one of the best nose guards in the league if his leg's healthy."
Williams, as you would expect, was humbled by Smith's remarks.
"To have Justin Smith say those type of words about you, I think back to my 10-year-old self looking up to guys who were in the NFL at the time," Williams said. "It's great that he has that confidence in me and (gives me) even more confidence in myself."
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- With Super Bowl 50 set to take place at Levi's® Stadium this February, reporters wanted to know if Williams had thought about playing in the big game with the host team.
"It's pretty cool to have the Super Bowl here in our stadium," Williams said. "Every year, that's what you're fighting for, but it's even more exciting to have the big game in your city. If we were to make it, that would be the first time that a (Super Bowl) team would play in their home stadium. It would be pretty cool to make history."
- The cross-training of defensive linemen has been a large topic of discussion during training camp. Each player at the position group is trained at all three spots along the defensive line. The added versatility for the coaching staff gives them extra flexibility within their 3-4 scheme.
It also, Williams said, helps the players have a greater understanding of everyone's role and responsibility.
"That's one thing that Jimmy (Tomsula) is big on," Williams said. "When I first got out here, I was a nose guard, but I started playing end first. It opened my eyes and expanded my horizons, learning offenses and being able to play different positions and knowing how different guys play. Glenn can play all three (positions), Quinton can play all three, Tony (Jerod-Eddie) has played nose and (Mike) Purcell has played all three. It helps you as a player going forward."