UNC Looks To Click Its Heels With Williams Under Center
By Zack Shelby
The 2013 North Carolina Tar Heels football team endured a 1-5 (0-3 ACC) start to its season, but were able to turn things around in the second half behind a quarterback who didn't start the team's first eight games..
Sophomore Marquise Williams took over the quarterback duties after senior starter Bryn Renner suffered a season-ending shoulder injury at N.C. State. Williams passed for 92 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 51 yards in that 27-19 victory over the Wolfpack on Nov. 2. Williams led a second-half resurgence which included a 39-17 win over Cincinnati — its first win in four tries at the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Renner's injury appeared to be the final nail in the Carolina coffin in 2013. After all, he finished his career with the top two single-season touchdown passing totals in school history with 26 in 2011 and 28 in 2012. He also owns the most 300-yard passing games in team history with 10. When Renner went down, a team that was already losing with his credentials leading the way, turned to the unproven Williams.
However, instead of throwing in the towel or continuing to accept failure, the Tar Heels rallied around Williams. The 6-foot 2, 215-pound Charlotte native led his team to victory in four of his five starts. On Nov. 23, Williams was part of a record-setting day in UNC's 80-20 demolition of the Old Dominion Monarchs. His five touchdown passes tied a school mark and his offense racked up a school-record 721 yards. For the season, he completed 107 of 184 passes for 1,527 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The passing numbers alone probably wouldn't make anyone forget about Renner, but Williams also contributed 490 yards and six rushing touchdowns. More importantly, the Tar Heels started winning, which speaks to Williams' ability to lead a team.
In modern-day football, it's more important than ever that a team is strong at quarterback. Williams clearly gave the Tar Heels a spark and he exuded that infamous "it" factor coaches talk about with special players, particularly those who play leadership positions such as quarterback. College coaches go to great lengths to recruit the best quarterback possible. In many cases, they will use multiple quarterbacks in the same game to create competition and hope that a true leader emerges. However, once those signal callers get good, it's not long before they leave college for the pros because they are in such high demand. Less than two years ago, Johnny Manziel was battling with Jameill Showers and Matt Joeckel for Texas A&M's starting quarterback job. In May, he could be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Of course, the Tar Heels don't have to look outside the ACC to discover how quickly freshman quarterback Jameis Winston rose into prominence. All he did was win the Heisman Trophy and national championship in his first season at Florida State.
Once a quarterback has shown an ability to win and lead a team, organizations, college and professional alike, cling to their heels. As the 2014 season approaches, UNC can be assured it has a player to latch on to in Williams.