CHAPEL HILL (AP) — Marquise Williams did just about everything coach Larry Fedora could have asked in leading North Carolina’s offense last season.
And yet, the senior quarterback sounds like he believes there’s a lot more to accomplish.
“I still have that mindset of going out and competing,” Williams said Wednesday during the team’s preseason media day. “And you can never be satisfied … so I come out every day hungry like I was two years ago and last year.”
Williams had spent the past two preseasons battling to be the starter, but he enters his final year with an unshakeable hold on the job. He certainly seems right at home in Fedora’s fast-paced system with the ability to throw downfield but also with mobility good enough to extend plays or make big gains himself on designed runs.
Williams threw for 3,068 yards and 21 touchdowns, ranking third in the Atlantic Coast Conference in passing yardage. He also ran for 788 yards on 193 carries with 13 scores, all team-high totals that helped him rank second in the ACC in total offense behind eventual No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Jameis Winston of Florida State.
Williams also had a couple of big moments in tight games, directing a pair of final-minute touchdown drives to rally past both Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh at home.
“The cliché that the game has slowed down, what it really means is a guy becomes comfortable so his decision-making process … is so much faster,” Fedora said. “He’s got this tight little loop that he’s making decisions based on, and it’s tighter than it ever has been because he understands and he’s comfortable with it.
“It doesn’t mean he doesn’t make mistakes. He makes mistakes like everybody else. How he deals with them has changed, and that’s come with maturity and the way he leads this football team.”
Some of that comes through with his easygoing demeanor and the way he’s quick to praise teammates.
After one training-camp practice earlier this week, he joked that his offensive line with five returning starters has been good enough to let him eat a hot dog or a hamburger when he drops back. He praised the tailbacks fighting to start alongside him in the backfield.
Ask him about his role, and he speaks directly about being a confident leader. He also knows he’ll need to cut down on some of the hits he takes this year despite showing an instinct as a tough runner — proven by his development as a go-to runner at the goal line with six touchdowns inside of 3 yards in 2014.
“I don’t see the hits he takes until film,” receiver Ryan Switzer said. “When I see them, I’m like, ‘Aww, man.’ But Marquise is a big boy. … He’s a tough guy. I think he knows that to make it through a full season this year, he’s got to be a little smarter with his body.
“He’s got go get down, get out of bounds. But for the most part, he does get the extra yard for his team, and it helped us a lot last year.”
Williams says he’ll try to run a little less — unless a play is there to be made.
“I got beat up last year, but hey, that’s what my team needed me to do,” he said. “And I’m a team player. It’s not about me. If they need me to jump off a cliff, hey, I’m going to have to jump off that cliff.”