UNC QB Williams confident, ready to get throwing
Known more as a dual-threat quarterback than a pure thrower, North Carolina junior Marquise Williams gained two high-profile admirers earlier this month at the Manning Passing Academy — Peyton and Eli.
“They told me a lot of guys said you weren’t a good thrower, but Peyton took me to the side and said ‘You’re a heck of a thrower,’” Williams said Sunday at the ACC Football Kickoff. “‘Your form is good, your feet are good.’ When he gave me that talk, I felt like no one (else) can tell me anything. ... When a Hall of Famer tells me that, that’s when I tune everyone else out.”
Becoming a more accurate passer is key for Williams, who is hoping to keep his role as the starting quarterback and lead UNC to at least nine wins for the first time since 1997.
The Charlotte native completed 58.1 percent of his passes last season, when he started the final five games after senior Bryn Renner suffered a shoulder injury. But he was more known for his athleticism — despite the limited playing time, Williams became the first quarterback to lead UNC in rushing since Gayle Bomar in 1968, and his 536 rushing yards are the second-most for a quarterback in UNC history.
Williams attended quarterback guru George Whitfield’s camp this spring and said he’s improved his footwork and timing, plus put in extra work with his receivers.
Throwing recently with T.J. Thorpe and Quinshad Davis, Williams took some of Peyton Manning’s advice and didn’t stop until he got a certain route exactly right — even if it meant throwing after it got dark.
Williams’ goal is not only to emerge from a muddled Coastal Division, which has no prohibitive favorite, but also to put UNC in the national conversation. The Tar Heels haven’t been ranked since the opening week of the 2010 season.
“People don’t talk about Carolina as a football school. That’s what kind of ticks me off about the situation,” Williams said. “We’re going to earn respect this year. We’re going to change things around. Of course it’s a basketball school, but we want people to know us as a football school. I don’t want to call somebody from Brazil and be like, ‘Hey you ever heard of North Carolina?’ ‘The basketball school?’ No, the football school. I want to change things like that.”
But first Williams will have to win the starting job over redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky, who was The Associated Press’ Mr. Ohio as a high school senior. Despite Williams’s edge in experience — he’s 4-2 as a starter — the two quarterbacks were given equal billing on the post-spring depth chart.
Instead of being disappointed that he hasn’t been named the starter, Williams said he welcomed the opportunity to compete.
“If I was going to win the starting job, I’d still think I need to compete the next season after that,” Williams said. “I named myself Marquise Competition because I’ve been competing my whole life.”
Despite going head-to-head for the same job, Williams said the two remain friends.
“We text every day,” Williams said. “We go to Defy Gravity (and) jump on trampolines. What happens next, happens next.”
No matter who gets the nod, Williams said that new offensive coordinator Seth Littrell promises some new tweaks to the offense, including more long passes.
Littrell ran the offense at Indiana last season.
“I was watching his film from Indiana and, Lord have mercy, I don’t know how many times they threw the ball deep,” Williams said. “He told me yesterday, it doesn’t matter what the defense does, we’re going to score points, and that’s exciting. If that doesn’t get you excited, then why are you playing football?”
MORE COVERAGE: ACC Commissioner John Swofford didn't shy away from UNC scandal.