Captain Mayhem

STORRS – Go ahead and search the toy stores or shop online. The Trevardo Williams Action Figure is not available for purchase. Not this holiday season.

Right now, Williams is an exclusive deal found only on the football field. He's the guy wearing the No. 48 jersey for the Connecticut Huskies. If you are in the same stadium, binoculars aren't needed. Williams is that defensive end chasing down and sacking quarterbacks at a remarkable rate.

Call him Captain Mayhem. Williams fits the mold.

"He looks like one of those action figures you'd buy at Walmart; one of those warrior guys," UConn quarterback Johnny McEntee told NBC Connecticut earlier this week.

Now there's some inside information only known to his teammates. So, that's what this 6-foot-1, 231-pound junior looks like without his shirt on, huh? (Sorry ladies, no locker room photos were made available).

"They say I'm a Power Ranger," Williams said of his teammates. "But I don't see what they see. You know, I always want to get bigger and they say, ‘No, you're big enough.' "

Williams, who moved from Jamaica to Bridgeport when he was nine years old, might seem dinky or out of place on a defensive line that includes Twyon Martin (6-2, 273), Kendall Reyes (6-4, 295) and Jesse Joseph (6-3, 262). But Williams has become a huge factor on this UConn defensive unit that ranks third nationally in rushing defense.

And heading into Saturday's regular season finale at Cincinnati, Williams ranks second in the nation in sacks after recording nine in the last four games. With two against Pittsburgh, one against Syracuse, two against Louisville and four against Rutgers, Williams has 12.5 sacks for a loss of 83 yards.

His 1.14 average per game ranks second in the nation and those 12.5 sacks are second all-time in UConn single-season history. The UConn school record is 13, shared by Mark Michaels (1984) and Steve Beal (1978).

It must be the Power Ranger body, right? Well, that doesn't hurt. But the explanation given by Williams includes studying film, hand placement, technique, leverage and his key ingredient – explosiveness.

"That's one thing that has helped me play against bigger guys," Williams said. "Explosive workouts and aggression. You always have to play fired up."

The way Williams plays has made the entire defense better in recent weeks. The Huskies have a better pass rush than they did in the early part of the season. And the success against the run speaks for itself, even though most opponents have chosen to exploit UConn's youthful secondary.

Williams was asked about his source of aggression.

"Just think about what your goal is and pursue it," he said with a slight hint of the Jamaican accent that still defines his speech. "Play like you don't want to be put down. Say you're going to go for it and take it.

"I remind myself of all the mistakes I made and try to better it every day. Like the Buffalo game, there's a lot of sacks I could have made that game."

Williams shakes his head in disappointment. At that moment everyone is happy to in the UConn team cafeteria – and not some place where Williams could use his Power Ranger abilities to sack the nearest person

Last year, Williams started seven games and played in all 13. He had 29 tackles, including 9.5 for a loss. He also had 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. But no one expected this recent outburst of sacks.

"What I saw was a guy who is really explosive coming off the ball," first-year coach Paul Pasqualoni said when asked about his first impressions of Williams. "I think now we're all seeing that more and more. He's starting to develop his pass rush skills. He's using his hands well, staying square well, not taking the path of least resistance around blocks and doing a fine job of rushing the passer."

Williams was a two-time all-conference selection and a 2007 all-state choice at Canterbury School. He never spent time with spring football because he participated in outdoor track. He excelled in sprint events, placing second in New England in the 100 meters in 2007.

"Eventually I realized that [track] helped [in football]," he said. "Before I tried to play base [blocking] and outmuscle a guy. I finally realized I'm undersized and I need to use something of more threat.

"I realized that when I came to college. I'm playing some larger guys; guys twice my size. So, ‘All right, this isn't working. I might as well try some speed.' "

When Williams studies film, he doesn't always watch little guys like himself. But he has spent considerable time viewing the techniques of former UConn teammate Cody Brown (6-3, 252), who has shuffled between three NFL teams since being taken by Arizona in the 2009 draft. Brown logged 24 sacks at UConn between 2005-08.

"I watch guys who are regular size," Williams said. "I try to take things from them and put them in my toolbox. Early, I watched Cody Brown. He was my No. 1 reference. His hand placement is incredible; his speed on his get-off."

Williams is dreaming of the NFL. As a senior next season at UConn, he knows he will need to elevate his game to another level.

"Rushing the passer is a highly skilled thing to do," Pasqualoni said. "He's got a ways to go, but he's made excellent progress."

The task at hand is pressuring the Cincinnati dual-threat quarterbacks on Saturday. Williams calls it "making them uncomfortable." And in recent weeks, Williams has been very good at that. "I've noticed the improvement," Williams said. "I've seen it. I just needed the opportunity to prove it myself and everyone else. Every day, it's a chance to prove it to myself.

"And I believe there's more to come because I've seen what I'm capable of. I believe you haven't seen the last of me."


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