Quinnen Williams needed an on-field tutor when he arrived at Alabama in 2016. He spent that year redshirting as a defensive end, watching Jonathan Allen. He learned from one of the best players in college football.

“When I came in as a freshman, I didn’t know anything about college speed or plays or anything like that,” he said. “Jonathan Allen really took me under his wing and really helped me out that first year.”

He needed help in 2017, too. Williams began working inside during his redshirt freshman year. He turned to Da’Ron Payne for help learning that position.

“He took me under his wing and taught me everything: how to be explosive like him, how to be quick like him, how to think like him, as far as looking at formations in the backfield and stuff like that,” Williams said.

Both Allen and Payne went on to be first-round draft picks after establishing themselves as cornerstones of the Alabama defense. Williams worked his way into the rotation last season, playing in all 14 games with 20 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss. Now he’s competing to take on an even bigger role.

“He’s really played well,” coach Nick Saban said. “… If you look at him as a young player, how he’s developed and what he’s grown into, improving himself physically, having a lot of maturity, really plays with a lot of effort, really smart player. I think he’s one of our most productive guys up front right now.”

Alabama returns defensive ends Raekwon Davis and Isaiah Buggs from last year’s team, but has less experience at defensive tackle. Williams said at the start of fall camp that he’s played both inside and outside on the defensive line. Wherever he lines up during the season will be determined by where he’s most needed.

Teammates have seen his development in the last two seasons as well. Left tackle Jonah Williams arrived on campus in the same recruiting class. He’s seen the guidance from Allen and Payne show up in Williams’ game.

“Jon (Allen) was obviously a technician, and I think he definitely took some of that as far as hand fighting and hand usage and stuff like that goes,” Jonah Williams said. “He’s always in good position, stuff like that. He doesn’t give his chest.”

Arriving at Alabama and looking at the rest of the defensive line was intimidating for a freshman like Quinnen Williams. Along with Allen and Payne, the Crimson Tide roster included future second-round pick Dalvin Tomlinson, fourth-round pick Da’Shawn Hand and seventh-round pick Josh Frazier.

Young players like Williams had no shortage of players to learn from.

“It was amazing, to come up under those guys and get taught by those guys and watch their leadership, watch how they work at it,” Quinnen Williams said. “…. If I do what I’m supposed to do, just like those guys did what those guys were supposed to do, hopefully I can be there one day also.”

Reach Ben Jones at ben@tidesports.com or 205-722-0196.