Marquise Williams brings versatility to backfield


Quarterback Marquise Williams missed spring practice, but won the backup quarterback spot in UNC’s preseason camp.

While his teammates went through offseason spring workouts and attended class, sophomore Marquise Williams stayed at home.

Williams, a backup quarterback, wasn’t enrolled at North Carolina, and wasn’t able to participate in team workouts. But that didn’t stop him from sticking with his team.

“I was trying to do the same thing — stay on the same page — as what they were doing, waking up early,” Williams said. “If they woke up at 5 (a.m.), I would set my alarm to wake up at 5.

“But the main thing was I was watching film. Film was like school to me. That’s the only thing I did. I just stayed in the film room and just went out on my own and practiced stuff to do the best I could and make myself more valuable for the team this year.”

And so far, Williams has made himself more valuable to the Tar Heels.

In the few brief stints of action during the first two games of the season, the backup quarterback has put together 27 yards in total offense, including a touchdown pass to freshman Bug Howard in the 40-20 win against Middle Tennessee State on Saturday.

Williams replaced starting quarterback Bryn Renner after an injury scare late in the third quarter against South Carolina. Williams played for one snap and rushed for two yards before North Carolina was forced to punt on the fourth down. Renner re-entered the game for the Tar Heels’ next drive.

Against MTSU, Williams was inserted into the lineup for Renner in the second quarter when Renner’s helmet came off and he was sent to the sideline for the next play. Williams carried the ball for two yards before Renner returned.

But Williams wasn’t done for the day — on UNC’s next drive, he caught a pass from tailback A.J. Blue for a 23-yard gain and a first down.

Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Blake Anderson doesn’t mind putting both of his quarterbacks on the field at the same time.

“He brings something to the table that’s a little different than Bryn (Renner) with his ability to run,” Anderson said. “He’s a little bit of a better runner out in space so it creates a problem for the defense.”

On UNC’s last drive of the game, Williams rushed for eight yards until running out of bounds — two yards longer than Renner’s longest rush of the game.

In the few plays he’s seen, Williams is averaging four yards per carry while Renner is averaging a loss of just more than half a yard for every rush.

“He’s got (scrambling) under control,” Renner said. “I’m kind of just a pocket guy. I like standing back there but he’s got a lot more moves than I do.”

Anderson knows that he’s got two very different quarterbacks on his hands, and he likes how the pair works together.

“It really comes down to what their personal styles are,” Anderson said. “I think they do a great job of bouncing off of each other, working in practice and complement each other really well.”

Though he hasn’t seen much action yet this season, Williams knows that he has to be prepared to take charge should an injury occur.

“You never know when my time is coming,” Williams said. “(Renner) can go down and I got to go in so it’s just keeping me on my toes — sliding me in, being focused and being ready.”

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