North Practice Notes: DT Sylvester Williams Dominates

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 22, 2013 – 5:40 pm

The North squad took the field for practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday and worked for roughly 2 hours under the direction of Dennis Allen’s Oakland Raiders staff. I sat in the bleachers behind one of the end zones, so my observations for Tuesday’s action will focus on the drill work and 11-on-11 action that happened right in front of me.

For Wednesday’s North team practice, I’ll be sure to spot myself in an area that will give me good vision to positions that are not covered in Tuesday’s notes…

Dominant DT
The star of the show for the North team on Tuesday was clearly North Carolina DT Sylvester Williams. He displayed a combination of size, strength and quickness that could make him a dominant player in the NFL. In a one-on-one drill with Kent State G Brian Winters, Williams used a quick rip move to get past the blocker and find the QB. Then moments later in a drill where the defensive linemen were working against double-teams, Williams split the two players blocking him with ease to make a play.

Williams, who goes by “Sly” instead of Sylvester, measured in at the Senior Bowl a touch over 6-2 and at 313 pounds. He has a solid base and good upper body strength, which allows him to anchor well and also fend off blockers with his arms so he can penetrate the backfield to make a play or force a play the wrong direction so a teammate can make a play. There were a couple of times when Oregon RB Kenjon Barner was able to dance around Williams in the backfield, but I think you have to give the defense a break there because players don’t tackle to the ground in these practices and because Barner is a great player in his own right.

Another impressive part of Williams’ game is his ability to anticipate snap counts. I’m not sure if this was a strength of his during actual games in college, but during practice on Tuesday he was able to anticipate a few snap counts, which made his already explosive first step even more explosive and his already dominant performance even more impressive.

One to watch
One of the first players I noticed at practice on Tuesday morning was Texas DE Alex Okafor. Maybe it was because he’s the 1st string left DT. Maybe it’s because of his build – 6-4½ , 261 pounds. I’m not exactly sure, but you can see the potential this player has as an edge rusher for a 4-3 defense.

Okafor’s best season at Texas was his last, when he registered 12.5 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks along the way to being named 1st-Team All-Big 12 and an AFCA All-American selection. Also, his best game at Texas may have been his last game, as he collected 4.5 sacks in his team’s bowl game.

I like Okafor a lot as a left DE in a 4-3 because he appears stout enough to hold his own in the run game as well as be a productive pass rusher. He didn’t win every matchup on Tuesday – Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher stonewalled him twice in a row during one-on-one drills – but he displayed a nice combination of brute strength and pass-rushing ability.

Before we move on to another position, it should also be noted that Penn State DT Jordan Hill flashed some ability on Tuesday by using a bull-rushing technique to overpower both Notre Dame C Braxston Cave and West Virginia OL Joe Madsen.

A few offensive linemen were good, too
It wasn’t all defensive line for the North team on Tuesday. A few of the offensive linemen stood out, too.

I already mentioned Fisher from Central Michigan. The 6-7, 305-pound OT looked good a couple times against Okafor, and overall had a solid practice. I noticed on several occasions great hand placement and hand fighting by San Jose State G David Quessenberry. And finally, I heard before practice that Illinois G Hugh Thornton had an up-and-down day on Monday, and then I saw him have an up-and-down day on Tuesday. Thornton dominated an opponent in one-on-ones, but then lost badly his next time around to UCLA DE Datone Jones.

Denard doesn’t steal the show
So often during his career at Michigan, Denard Robinson stole the show. He hasn’t been able to do that at Senior Bowl practices. But you can hardly blame him.

After playing QB at Michigan, Robinson is at the Senior Bowl as a WR. He did have a nice up-and-out pattern today that resulted in a TD, but overall he looks like just a face in the crowd. I’m sure he’ll become much more than a face in crowd if he can ever adjust to the intricacies of playing the position. He is too athletic and too good with the ball in his hands to not have a place in the NFL.

The Raiders coaching staff also had Robinson back to catch punts today, and it wasn’t a great display. As he does with the details of playing the WR position, Robinson has much to work on when it comes to fielding punts. I think he’ll get there, though.

– The LB from Illinois that we put on the “10 Players To Watch” list earlier in the week – Michael Buchanon – recovered a fumble on Tuesday and returned it for a TD. Sweet.
– I counted 5 fumbled center-quarterback exchanges for the North team on Tuesday. Those are to be expected early in the week of an all-star game, but 5 seems a little over the top. That will be a point of frustration and discussion in meetings tonight, I bet.
– There were a couple of times when UCONN DE Trevardo Williams impressed me on Tuesday with his movement skills in space. He contained a screen pass and a swing pass – both to RBs – nicely during Tuesday’s practice and it was all because of his discipline to stay home and his ability to react quickly in the open field.
– Tuesday’s practice concluded on a play that saw Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib connect with Cincinnati TE Travis Kelce for a deep pass down the left seam.

Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 18 Comments »

18 Responses to “North Practice Notes: DT Sylvester Williams Dominates”

  1. By Northern Norseman on Jan 22, 2013 | Reply


  2. By Northern Norseman on Jan 22, 2013 | Reply

    I always thought how stupid that was to claim first comment and I did it anyways….. haha it’s not very satisfying

  3. By Vikings4life on Jan 22, 2013 | Reply

    Wobby this is quiet alot of Manti Teo Video’s, Is this some sort of hint? I think we all hope from a football perspective that he falls to the Vikings because one the vikings love their Notre Dame football players and two, he would provide an instant upgrade to what I believe is the teams weakest position at Middle Linebacker with Brinkley and Audie Cole. Brinkley is a good back up that is worth having on the team and Audie showed us he has potential and plays instinctive. But Teo although has his flaws in the pass game, overall he is reliable and a smart player having him and chad would greatly improve the linebacker position.

  4. By Northern Norseman on Jan 22, 2013 | Reply

    If Manti Teo and Alec Ogletree was at our spot who would you take

  5. By Jeremy on Jan 22, 2013 | Reply

    Has anybody heard anything about Jordan Campbell LB out of New Mexico Highlands…but really USC….

    or Garrett Gilkey T/G out of Chadron St.???????

  6. By Tomcat on Jan 22, 2013 | Reply

    NN- Ya hafta go with Ogletree.

  7. By Northern Norseman on Jan 22, 2013 | Reply


    Jordan Campbell… glad you brought him up!

    Ive heard of Jordan Campbell but have not got around to studying him much yet.

    From what I have seen though is that he looks like a stud at LB. Only knock is that he is only 5’10” or so but still he looks good to me. I just dont know the most about him right now.

    I have no idea though what he is like off the field or what his personality is either. Like if he’d be someone you’d want in your locker room or not.

    What do you know about him?

  8. By Northern Norseman on Jan 22, 2013 | Reply


    Yeah thats what I was leaning towards myself

  9. By Skiingballer on Jan 22, 2013 | Reply

    I don’t know Wobs Williams did pretty good, but to me he was inconsistent. What I could see on NFL network is what I have to go off of, so naturally I’m missing quite a bit. Likewise Okafor was ok but that’s about all. I’m glad that you mentioned Datone Jones, he was the guy that jumped out to me. He made a RT look horrible with awesome quickness then jumped over and beat Eric Fisher the only time I saw Fisher beat.

  10. By PurplHaze on Jan 22, 2013 | Reply

    If we were to take DT Sylvester Williams in the 1st, I wouldn’t see a problem, as long as we got someone like Greg Jennings in FA. We need help at the WR position NOW!!!

    And PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t waste that pick on Te’o! He’s NOT worth it!!!

  11. By Northern Norseman on Jan 22, 2013 | Reply

    I really want the Vikings to get G Andy Levitre this off season…. he is one of my only must haves for free agency…. go get him!

  12. By PurplHaze on Jan 22, 2013 | Reply

    I’ve already said the same, NN. Only thing is, if we don’t take a playmaker WR In the first round this year, we’re likely in for more of what we experienced last season on offense.

    I for one AM NOT wanting a repeat in that facet of their game!

  13. By Tomcat on Jan 22, 2013 | Reply

    Levitre would be a major coup. Remember Hutch? We would have the best left side in the NFL.

  14. By Northern Norseman on Jan 22, 2013 | Reply

    Haha I agree….. I dont want a repeat of last year…. for the passing game at least… I would love for a repeat in the rushing department though.

    My gut feeling for free agency for WR will be that the Vikings will throw out offers to some of the better guys to see what happens but in the end will probably get something similar to a Jerome Simpson ordeal. A player with upside that is in a prove-it deal. Spielman likes to save money

    My gut feeling for the draft for WR will be the Vikings will go after a great WR. It reminds me a lot of the safety position. In random moments I caught Frazier hinting that whatever safety was drafted would NEED to come in and contribute right away. Being that there were only 2 safetys that could do that let me to believe Harrison Smith would be the guy Vikings would target…. walla the Vikings trade up for Harrison Smith.

    I really believe the Vikings will expect to draft a WR to come in and contribute right away. Its tricky though because the WR position is much deeper than last years S position. Regardless, I am sure they will go out and get a guy that can come in and help Ponder out NOW. Its a matter of who can do that.

    WRs that can FOR THE VIKINGS: (Ranked in Tiers but not ranked in a particular order within each Tier)
    *doesnt include some WRs that are in the same size/mold as Percy and Wright

    ===Tier 1===
    Keenan Allen
    Cordarrelle Patterson
    Justin Hunter

    ===Tier 2===
    Robert Woods
    Deandre Hopkins
    Da’Rick Rodgers

    ===Tier 3===
    Cobi Hamilton
    Quinton Patton
    Terrance Williams

    The Vikings will go after Tier 1 with being okay settling for Tier 2 but its really hard for them to accept leaving the draft with their best WR being in the Tier 3.

    Obviously their rankings may be different than mine but the ‘Tier’ concept is used a lot in the prospect scouting for the draft.

  15. By GDR on Jan 23, 2013 | Reply

    No. norseman,

    Why would Kiper and others have the queens taking T. Williams first rd, when you have him rated T-3 and only 2-3 WR’s are expected to be off the board by the time 23 comes into play?

  16. By sandiamond on Jan 24, 2013 | Reply

    WR chip Tier looks about right to me. T Williams is just not that good. Usually when Kiper misses on a mock, he misses BIG

  17. By sandiamond on Jan 24, 2013 | Reply

    Not impressed with Sly Williams at the senior bowl compared to the other DT’s. I don’t recall him anticapting snap counts and making big plays from it while at UNC
    other DT’s
    Brandon Williams
    John Jenkins
    Kawann Short

  18. By Jeff S on Jan 25, 2013 | Reply

    Joey Madsen impressed. Jordan Hill DID NOT overpower Madsen on a bull rush. As a matter of fact, Madsen went 6 for 6 on the pass protection drills that were on TV.

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