Williams said having a support group in running backs coach Robert Gillespie and veteran running backs like Carter and Antonio Williams helped spark much of his improvement as a sophomore.
“Being behind two older guys, veterans, who pretty much know everything before the coach even asked the question, it can shatter your confidence a little bit,” Williams said. “But I continued to see the things they did to prepare for games and I started doing them and that just really helped me a lot.”
Williams said he has placed an emphasis on improving agility and route running to increase his pass catching ability out of the backfield. With quarterback Sam Howell entering his second season under center for the Tar Heels, North Carolina’s air raid offense could call on Williams and other running backs to catch more passes in the new season.
“I’ve been running routes with Sam... just trying to catch as many passes as I can,” Williams said. “(Offensive coordinator Phil) Longo said that’s going to be an even bigger part of the offense this year.
“What I like more about catching the ball out of the backfield is that you’ve got more space,” Williams continued. “With us catching the ball out of the backfield it’s going to be a lot harder for teams to prepare.”
With the contrasting running styles that Williams and Carter employ — Williams being a power back with the ability to run down the nose of a defense, where Carter relies more on quick bursts of speed and elusiveness — Williams said their unique abilities make the duo even stronger against opposing defenses.
“It does help you a little bit when you can make contact before they can,” Williams said. “If you keep doing that and then bring someone like Mike (Carter) in and he’s more shifty, I feel like sooner or later they’re going to get tired and not know how to adjust.”
Entering the season as one of the favorites to win the Coastal Division and face Clemson for an ACC title, Williams said high expectations have been a motivating factor as preseason training has gone on.
“Coming in with all the hype, I just know we’ve got to be able to back it up,” Williams said. “We’re on the rise, teams want to knock us off even more, so I know we’ve just got to prepare even harder every day and push each other. I feel like we can really do something special this year.”
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