Williams in Rhythm

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Midway through his junior season, North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams has found the right rhythm that has allowed him to blossom in Larry Fedora’s up-tempo spread offense.

Through the first five games of the season, Williams was labeled the team’s starter, but during the third series of each game, redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky would sub in. In several games, Trubisky would enter again for another series in the first half.

The results were uneven, as the Tar Heel offense was hampered by slow starts and stalled-out drives. After Trubisky threw a crippling pick-six against Virginia Tech (a 34-17 loss), frustration amongst the fans reached new heights.

Despite the offensive inconsistency, both Fedora and quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf dismissed the notion of the rotation affecting Williams or the offensive production.

In South Bend, the quarterback rotation ended and Williams has since exploded on the national scene. The Charlotte, N.C. product has delivered a school-record 898 total yards of offense over UNC’s last two games.

“In the games, I’ve been in a rhythm,” Williams said this week. “I’m not coming out and just going with the flow.”

For the season, Williams has completed 64.5 percent of his passes (156-of-242) for 1,776 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also leads the team in rushing with 448 yards and four touchdowns on 91 carries.

In a hostile road environment against No. 5 Notre Dame, Williams accounted for four total touchdowns, 303 passing yards and 139 yards on the ground. Fedora told reporters following the game that Williams’ ability to get into a rhythm early prompted the coaching staff to scrap the rotation for that particular game.

On Tuesday, UNC assistant head coach for offense Seth Littrell addressed the possibility that Williams playing the entirety of the game helped him establish a rhythm.

“Maybe that’s some of it,” Littrell said. “… I think he’s getting more confidence as he goes. It could have; the last couple of weeks he’s been in great rhythm.”

Last week against Georgia Tech, Williams once again played nearly every offensive snap (Trubisky took a snap when Williams was shaken up on a run) and produced an even better statistical performance than he had the week before.

Several offensive coaches lauded Williams’ ease in the pocket, his willingness to trust his receivers to make competitive plays, and his poise in leading the offense to a game-winning drive in the final minutes.

Against the Yellow Jackets, Williams recorded 390 passing yards, 75 rushing yards and five total touchdowns (4 passing, 1 rushing) to go along with an interception.

“I think I would keep it exactly the way it is,” Littrell said. “As long as he is in a rhythm, I’m not going to take him out of it. I think he’s more comfortable, and he understands that he is the guy, which probably brings a little bit more confidence, too.”

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