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Andy Furillo: Folsom’s Jonah Williams could be next big thing at Alabama

Folsom High School graduate Jonah Williams – waiting to play for the Bulldogs against Bellarmine Prep in the CIF NorCal Division I-AA championship game on Dec. 11, 2015, in Folsom, Calif. – has arrived at Alabama but won’t be able to play for the National Championship in Monday’s game against Clemson.
Folsom High School graduate Jonah Williams – waiting to play for the Bulldogs against Bellarmine Prep in the CIF NorCal Division I-AA championship game on Dec. 11, 2015, in Folsom, Calif. – has arrived at Alabama but won’t be able to play for the National Championship in Monday’s game against Clemson. Brian Baer/Special to The Bee

In the category of short films, a nomination for best performance by an offensive tackle is in order for Jonah Williams, recently departed from Folsom High School for early enrollment at Alabama.

He is a one-man Eve of Destruction in the nine-minute, 54-second highlight reel put together by hudl.com. In scene after scene, he leaves trails of wreckage while creating space for Folsom’s skill people. And when Williams leaks out on bubble screens? It’s pitiful, just pitiful, the images of him out-quicking defensive backs half his size and laying waste to them.

Too bad the Crimson Tide can’t slide Williams onto the roster for Monday night’s national championship game against Clemson. He would probably give pause to Tigers All-America defensive end Shaq Lawson. One thing for sure, Lawson would be looking up. In the tale of the tape, Lawson, at 6-foot-3, 275 pounds, gives up two inches and 20 pounds to the behemoth from the south bank of the American River.

“And this is not a fat guy whatsoever,” Folsom co-head football coach Kris Richardson said. “When you say 295, you think of a guy with maybe a little bit of a belly going. Jonah doesn’t have that. He gets on the scale, and he’s just one big block of muscle. I’m 6-5, 250 pounds, and you shake his hand and it engulfs mine. His feet (size 17 shoes) are monstrous. And he’s the most coachable kid I’ve ever had.”

Winner of three national collegiate football championships in six years, Alabama is favored by 6  1/2 points to make it four out of seven. If one thing has marked the dynasty created by Nick Saban, it has been his recruitment of edifices such as Mount Williams. Ten ’Bama blockers – including this year’s center, Ryan Kelly – have won All-America honors since Saban took charge of the Tuscaloosans in 2007. Their abilities have enabled the Heisman Trophies won by Derrick Henry this season and Mark Ingram in 2009.

Talking heads rightly gush about the greatness of the Alabama offensive line. This season, the recognition became official, when the front five of the Tide won the inaugural Joe Moore Award, an honor set aside for the premier blocking unit in the country. The award is named for the late offensive-line coach of Notre Dame and the University of Pittsburgh who shaped 52 grunts into NFL players. Its electorate included every major-college offensive-line coach in America.

In March, Alabama asked Williams to join the club. The Crimson Tide was one of 25 college programs that made offers to the teenager ranked by Rivals.com as the 19th-best high school football player in the country.

On the weekend of March 28-29, he visited Tuscaloosa.

“I remember when he came home,” Richardson said. “He was like, ‘This is where I need to be.’ 

Williams announced for Alabama the next week.

“A lot of kids would think ‘Hey, I’ve arrived,’ ” Richardson said. “The only thing it did with Jonah was make him work that much harder. He wanted to have perfect technique. He wanted the big-picture schematics, not just for his job, but for everybody’s job.

“Saturday morning after a game, the minute the game film would go up, I’d get a text – ‘Hey, on Play 37, I stepped with the wrong foot. I didn’t have my hands in the right landmarks,’ ” Richardson recalled. “Here’s a guy, even before I got on the film with him, he’d already told me all the things he’d done wrong.”

So how does a Folsom kid wind up in Alabama?

For Williams, it made perfect sense and none at all. He grew up in Atlanta/ and his father graduated from Georgia, which made Williams’ matriculation in the Southeastern Conference understandable. The mystery, though, is that his mother went to Auburn, the hated rival of Alabama.

Williams began his preparatory education at the Marist School in Atlanta. According to his coach, work obligations brought the Williams family to Northern California. The arrival took place just before Jonah’s sophomore year in 2013. Records show he first enrolled at Davis High School, where he played on the Blue Devil varsity. By January, he had moved to Folsom, where coach Richardson said the boy’s arrival was unanticipated.

“He just showed up,” Richardson said. “I remember getting an email from a track coach saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got a discus guy here.’ 

Introductions were soon made with the Folsom football department, which was coming off a 14-1 season and an appearance in the state Open Division championship game.

“And he walked in the door, and I said, ‘Oh, I like this guy,’ ” Richardson said.

Williams finished ninth in the shot put in the state high school meet last year with a heave of 57 feet, 6 inches. The heavy metal soon gave way to the highlight videos.

Defensive tackles, linebackers, safeties – they all look like stuntmen flying out of barroom windows in Hollywood westerns. There he is, sealing the edge with his width and strength, and penning defensive linemen in the corral. Now you see him exploding to the second level and knocking a linebacker through the air from the 25-yard line to the 30.

Parental guidance is suggested for viewing his work on the bubble screens.

Andy Furillo: 916-321-1141, @andyfurillo

It’s a wrap

  • What: National college football championship
  • Who: Clemson (14-0) vs. Alabama (13-1)
  • When: Monday, 5:30 p.m.
  • Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
  • Line: Alabama by 6 1/2 (over/under 50 1/2 )
  • TV: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN News, ESPN Classic (Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit)
  • Radio: 1320 (Mike Tirico, Todd Blackledge)
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