“So we were trying all the wings, we were trying all the burgers, all the sandwiches,” Williams said. “I was like, ‘This might be the best day of my life.’ That’s honestly what I was thinking. It was so much food, and all of it was good. I can’t wait to get that deal started.”
Williams said that compensation will come in the form of cash and store credit upon completion of social-media posts touting Hooters.
“So that’s definitely a good thing,” Williams said. “We’re all very happy for that.”
Williams’ good humor extends far past Hooters’ chicken-wing offerings. The lone returning full-time starter on the line, Williams offered his endorsements for his teammates as heartily as his advocacy for Hooters. While lacking in experience, the line will carry the heavy responsibility of protecting quarterback Jeff Sims and being impactful in the run game for a team that was 9-25 in coach Geoff Collins’ first three seasons. Williams’ assessments suggested that the Jackets may have the pieces to fulfill that duty.
Center Weston Franklin, Williams said, has “taken his game to a whole ‘nother level.” While offensive line coach Brent Key has tried different combinations with the starting line in the preseason, Franklin is expected to be the first-string center when the Jackets play their season opener against Clemson on Sept. 5 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (8 p.m., ESPN).
“Just from the spring to fall camp, he definitely looks, like, 10 times better,” Williams said. “I don’t know if y’all are looking, he’s slimmed up a little bit. He’s out there moving. Shout out Weston, man.”
Williams mentioned the guards who have rotated with the first unit – Paula Vaipulu, Paul Tchio, Quick and walk-on Joe Fusile.
“My boy Joe,” Williams said. “Joe Fusile – y’all need to get him up here (for media availability). He’s a dog. Working with them is always good, especially now that everybody’s settled in with what we’re doing now, the plays we’re running. Everybody knows what to do. So it’s definitely been good playing with all the guards out there.”
Key has said that he has rotated guards and tackles in different groups to see what the best combination is and also to give players the feel for playing alongside multiple teammates.
“One thing about rotating the O-line, we’re trying to make sure we’re comfortable with playing with anybody next to us,” Williams said. “Just in case a man goes down, somebody can pop right in, somebody can flip to the other side if they need to.”
Williams, for instance, had been working at left and right tackle, the latter being the spot where he started in his first two seasons. Williams said he is planning to remain there, although he said he continues to get practice time on the left side.
“I think I’ve gotten to the point where I’m comfortable at both sides,” Williams said.
While Corey Robinson, Jakiah Leftwich and Wing Green have been competing to start at the tackle spot opposite Williams, Robinson may have emerged as the top candidate. Robinson, a transfer from Kansas, has fit in with the offensive line group, albeit with at least two suspicious characteristics.
“We can’t trust Corey too much,” Williams said. “He doesn’t like a lot of things. For one, he doesn’t like cheese. Like, who doesn’t like cheese? He doesn’t like cartoons. I don’t know (anyone) who doesn’t like cartoons. He doesn’t like Cartoon Network. I thought that was weird. On the field, I respect him, though.”
Whoever it is that starts against Clemson – Robinson, Leftwich or Green – Tech’s first offensive snap in a game will be that player’s first at the college level.
“(Robinson) and Jakiah are going to be real good down the road, like super good,” Williams said. Offensive coordinator Chip Long said that, while conventional wisdom advocates for keeping an offensive line intact, he’s OK with bringing in backups.
“Some people want to keep the same group out there,” Long said. “I think that builds complacency a lot of times. If we can have certain groups play 40 snaps apiece, that’s great. I think you just get better and better and you build quality depth, so I’m all for it.”