Lost amidst yesterday's Percy Harvin news was a transcript of Vic Fangio's press conference. He discussed a variety of topics, but I thought the most interesting topic was his discussion of nose tackle Ian Williams. He opened answering some questions about Williams and his work as the first team nose tackle.
Fangio discussed how Glenn Dorsey was still in the competition mix, but he did address the idea that Dorsey could be better served helping spell the guys on the end of the line. It sounds like Williams will get some chances for work on the end as well, but we'll see if the 49ers set up a similar split of work like they did with Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois.
There are a couple solid articles about Williams from Eric Branch and Matt Maiocco, featuring some comments from the young nose tackle. Williams went undrafted, and it sounds like part of it might have been due to some issues with his work ethic. Williams says simply that he may have lost sight of his goals, so take that however you want. Either way, it sounds like he is that much more focused, and ready.
Williams said he has dropped upwards of 25 pounds. He said he weighed around 330 last year, and is down around 305-310 this year. It brings him in under the size of a lot of the mammoth nose tackles out there, but it sounds like he is able to work from that size. He has performed well in camp, according to all reports, and will get a chance next week against the Broncos to stake a bigger claim on that starting job.
How has NT Ian Williams looked with the first team handling the nose tackle responsibilities?
"He's doing very well. He's having a good camp, so far. Ian's worked extremely hard since he's gotten here from day one but really kicked it up this offseason and he's had a very good camp up to now. Played very well."
What was the difference, was it something specific you noticed with him in the offseason?
"He's always been a good worker here. He just kicked it up a notch. I think he saw an opportunity. We signed him to an extension, which gave him a message. The two nose tackles that were ahead of him are no longer here. I think he's matured as a worker and a professional football player. He's realized his weaknesses and is trying to overcome them and correct them and he's playing good. We'll be fine there between him and [DL] Glenn Dorsey."
When you say that he kicked it up a notch, can you give an example of a time maybe you got in here and you saw him really early in the morning or is it something or is it a long stretch of things?
"I can't come up with anything like that, but you know I think he's got his weight down, which for those of us that know what an extra five or 10 is hard to get off, he's been able to do that which has made him even better. He's always been strong. I think he's one of our strongest bench-pressers, maybe if not the best on the team. He's always been quick and fast but when you get your body in great shape. In the past I think he's been able to play a play or two at a time, 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."
Given Dorsey's experience, where he was drafted etc., I think most people might be a little surprised at this point that Williams has started ahead of him. Is that still very much a competition?
"Oh yes, most definitely. And both of those guys have to know how to play end, too. They won't just be nose exclusively."
Is Dorsey better suited to do that?
"He's had more experience doing it in his career, maybe more better suited, but he's a nose first now, end second. But Ian's going to have to know end also."
Do you prefer for that fourth guy to be just a fourth guy regardless of position?
"Ideally, we'll dress five and you need to have somebody that can go in there and play a very good nose for you, whoever that backup is, and somebody that can play either side and end for you. So, I don't know that it's critical that the fourth guy has to be there. You have to have that out of your five guys that dress. It's kind of ducking your question, but we don't need that from one guy have to be the backup at all three."
I know it's early, but are some of the things you've seen from S C.J. Spillman to allow him to work with the first team?
"Well, we're rotating those guys in and out of the first team on a kind of two or three practice rotation just so all of them get a shot in there working with the first group, working with [S] Donte [Whitner]. C.J. is a guy that's been here now for three years and actually he was here the year before we got here. He's coming along as a safety. I know he's got the moniker that he's a special teams player only, but he's capable of playing a solid safety position in the NFL. He just has to become solid in his assignments and his techniques because you know back there if you make a mistake it could be a big one. If a D-lineman makes a mistake maybe it's a six, seven or 10 yard gain. Back there, it could be a homerun and we got to have the trust and confidence that that doesn't happen with him."
Is his familiarity with the system the reason why he's getting first team reps first? You said you guys were rotating.
"That plays into it and he's been here. He's been here."
Did we see some of that today at the end of practice, him having to get his assignments and his technique right when, I think TE Vernon Davis had a long catch and WR Anquan Boldin had a --?
"Yeah, I don't remember the exact play and what we were in so it would be hard for me to comment. But, yeah we can't give up big plays. Nothing beats you quicker than a big play. And I'm not sure if he was the culprit there or not, on that play."
How's S Eric Reid coming along?
"He's doing fine. Eric's a smart player. He's diligent. The game's not too big for him. He's just going through the normal growing pains of a rookie, learning the system, learning the NFL style of play, the tempo picks up, etc. But, he's doing fine."
At the progression you've seen, think he'll be ready to, if not start game one, but be in the rotation and play?
"Yeah, I'll be disappointed if he doesn't achieve that this year."
What other young defensive guys have stood out to you so far in camp?
"[LB] Nick Moody's shown some good ability there at the inside linebacker position. But, much like the other guys, is a rookie. Particularly in his case, you've always got to remember he was a defensive safety in college until his last year there. So, he's relatively new as a linebacker and that shows up at times. And, then other times his talent shows up and makes you think he can be an NFL linebacker. So, he's been showing some good ability. Again, the draft class of last year with [LB] Cam Johnson's been doing fine and [S] Trenton Robinson's made another step up. So, I look at those guys as young guys still."
How do you look at the 49ers offensive line when you're going up against them each day and the strides that unit has made over the course of this past year and the stability that they have?
"Well, they're a group that works well together. They got good size. You can tell that they've played together for an extended period of time. But, we can still do fine against them."
You brought in LB Travis Johnson today to replace LB Darius Fleming. What are you looking for out of him?
"Well, I think when you bring a guy in like that, at this stage, you don't know what you're really hoping for. He's going to get his chances as a linebacker, primarily as an inside right now, maybe eventually outside. And when he gets his opportunity he's going to have to show something to catch our eyes to count him in the mix."
LB Patrick Willis has always been known as an elite player, but how has his game maybe evolved since you've been here for the last few years?
"Well, he always has been an elite player. He's got elite talent and he's an elite person and worker. I just think he's become a better player overall. I think he has a better understanding of the game now. I think he accepts challenges. He knows we rely on him and put him in some tough positions and he cherishes that and relishes in it. I just think he's become a much better mental football player than he was earlier in his career."
You say he accepts challenges, is that mostly maybe in coverage?
"Yes, in coverage and both in run too. But, mainly in coverage."
Is LB NaVorro Bowman OK?
"Yeah, he's fine. I didn't find out until I was out on the field that he wasn't going to work today. He's just got a little something, just being cautious."
One more Ian Williams question, but obviously he came out of Notre Dame, he had a pretty decent career there, but he wasn't drafted. Looking back when he came into the league, what was missing with him?
"It's a good question. But, every year you see that happen. Why wasn't he drafted at least in the seventh round the year he came out? I don't know. I don't know if there were some questions about his work habits. Obviously, he's on the short side as most D-linemen go. I don't have a good answer for you there. Trust me, he should have been drafted."