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February 25, 2013

Williams out to improve stock at combine

Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

INDIANAPOLIS -- His career may not have taken the path he imagined it would've when he left Miami Trace high school nearly five years ago, but Nathan Williams appears to be one step closer to living out his dream.

Spending the better part of the past week at the NFL Scouting Combine, the former Ohio State defensive end will get the chance to workout in front of the league's top personnel people when defensive linemen and linebackers go through stations and skills drills today. Williams' chance to showcase his talents two months before the NFL Draft comes less than two years after the Washington Court House, Ohio native underwent microfracture knee surgery that kept out of all but one game of the Buckeyes' 2011 season.

After playing in 10 of OSU's 12 games in 2012, Williams insists he is now at full strength as he heads into perhaps the biggest "job interview" of his life.

"It was a very rough process throughout the whole offseason trying to get back," Williams said. "I did everything possible to make it back the first game. That was my goal. I met my goal, and I really had gotten better each week as the season went along."

Measuring in at 6-foot-3 and 241 pounds, Williams projects as either a linebacker or defensive end at the next level. Having played a little of both throughout his college career, Williams feels comfortable at either spot, and hasn't been pigeonholed by NFL teams as one or the other.

"They have me at defensive line. I know I'm going to have to do some linebacker stuff. I'm prepared to do both," Williams said. "I've heard everything from outside linebacker to middle (linebacker) in the 3-4 scheme. I haven't heard too much as far as 4-3 schemes."

After recording 40 tackles and two sacks in his senior season, Williams heads into the draft ranked as its No. 21 outside linebacker according to ESPN, and the 30th ranked player at the same position according to CBSSports.com. A total of 23 outside linebackers were selected in the 2012 NFL Draft.

According to Williams' player profile on NFL.com, his strengths include his toughness and instincts, while his weaknesses include concerns about his knee and what position he would play in the NFL.

"Williams is a bit of a 'tweener, but he's instinctive and can hold up at the point of attack and provide containment," the profile reads. "He's not an overly explosive pass rusher, but he could have value to a team as a backup due to his toughness and mental aptitude."

Projected by CBSSports.com to be a 7th round pick or go undrafted, Williams will try to erase doubts about his health and ability to play linebacker during today's drills. And having spent his time since Ohio State's season ended working out in Arizona with former teammates Reid Fragel and Jake Stoneburner, Williams believes that he's in the best position possible to do just that.

"Jake and Reid really worked their butts off in Arizona," Williams said. "Hopefully the rest of the combine will show that I did too."

Regardless of where is draft stock winds up after today, or Ohio State's March 8th pro day, or on the day of the draft itself, Williams said that his time at OSU prepared him as best as it possibly could have for the next chapter in his life.

"It prepared me a lot of ways, being coached by, I personally think the best coaches around in Jim Heacock and Mike Vrabel and having the defensive coordinator as we did in Luke Fickell. Being led by one of the best head coaches ever in Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer. I think that says enough," Williams said. "Having the best coaches prepare you for the next level is a tremendous asset."



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