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Big Day For Big Guys

Jonah Williams took the draft stage the night before Willie Anderson.
Jonah Williams took the draft stage the night before Willie Anderson.

Friday. Second day of the draft. Big day for the Bengals offensive line.

While Alabama's Jonah Williams arrived at Paul Brown Stadium and made sure he knew which series of lockers contained the offensive line, Auburn's Willie Anderson prepared to announce the club's second-round pick in Nashville as a franchise great.

Both played their college ball in Alabama. Both were first-round picks, 24 years apart. Anderson went tenth. Williams went 11th. Both worked with Paul Alexander, the former long-time Bengals offensive line coach. Alexander was Anderson's only line coach during his 12 years as a Bengal in which he became a four-time Pro Bowl right tackle and Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate. Williams worked with Alexander preparing for the NFL scouting combine and his pro day in Tuscaloosa.

"No question he's the best lineman in the draft," Alexander said Friday during a break at a clinic. "Because he blocks his guy all the time."

Alexander isn't looking to put pressure on the kid. But he thinks the guy has a high ceiling and long career ahead of him because of his analytical approach and adroit athleticism. He actually saw him do something that reminded him of Anderson during a drill. Alexander stopped it and asked Williams, 'Do you know what you just did?' Williams said he didn't.

"I told him the way you stopped, started, and speeded up like that, I think only one guy I ever had could do that. Willie Anderson," Alexander said. "That's a rare trait for guys to do. Usually they get down their footwork and timing and stuff like that and there it is. But to be able to adjust and accelerate and adjust to the rusher, not many can do that."

To keep it all in the family, Anderson said he and Williams have chatted via social media and Anderson, who runs a lineman academy in Atlanta, said he noticed Williams followed some of his accounts with instructional videos. He loves the pick.

"He's big time," said Anderson from Nashville, waiting to make the call at No. 42. He's a guy that can carry on the lineage they used to have there of great tackles. There was me in '96 and Levi (Jones in 2002) and then (Andrew Whitworth in 2006) and Whit should have been a first-round pick. Now he's a legend. I think Jonah has the kind of talent to carry that on. He's a hard worker."

Alexander does compare Williams to Whitworth in the scope of how they think the game.

"I was teaching the guys how to study film and break it down and he blew me away the way Whitworth did," Alexander said. "He was analytical and precise. He had a system and all those things were really impressive. And talking football with him on the field, he would know exactly why and how to do it and these were techniques he had never done before. His personality is very impressive."

But Whitworth is 6-7 and about 330 pounds back in the day. Williams is 6-4, 302 pounds and he'll have to get bigger. Alexander says no problem there because he's just 21.

"They're not carbon copies," Alexander said. "Whit is a little more outspoken, but their brains work the same way. This kid is quicker than Whit, but Whit's bigger."

No, Alexander says. Williams' arms aren't too short at 33 inches and 5/8 at just 300 pounds.

"Will he be a little lacking there? Yes he will," Alexander said. "But he has that ability to adjust to the speed and play with balance and know-how and those things that are compensating factors for him."

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