Keeping It Heel’s last Film Room Focus post will be centered around Marquise Williams. Much discussion will be had this coming offseason about the quarterback position for the North Carolina Tar Heels. Some will say Marquise Williams should walk into spring practices with the starting job already locked up, and some want redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky from Ohio to get his shot. Marquise Williams got a head start on the competition this fall and performed very well for Carolina considering the circumstances. In this Film Room Focus post, we will look at some of the things Marquise Williams does well and needs to improve on going forward to win the starting job.
This first image shows Marquise’s ability as a passer in UNC’s fast paced offense. Much is made about Williams’s ability to run the football as a dual threat quarterback, but it turns out that number 12 has shown some flashes as a passer as well. Look at how he drives this ball into a pretty small window to move the chains for UNC.
Williams shows with that throw that he can survive, but not nessecarily thrive, as a passer in UNC’s system. The reason why I say survive and not thrive is that Williams’s passing game still has a lot of holes in it. Marquise struggles throwing the ball deep down the field and executing short screen routes and dump downs to running backs. Those two areas of his passing game must be improved this offseason if Williams wants to continue to improve in Coach Fedora’s offense.
Here is an example of an execution throw that needs work for Marquise. UNC runs a screen pass for Quinshad Davis, who has the blue circle coming out of him. Eric Ebron serves as the lead blocker for Quinshad. Also notice the play action set up for TJ Logan, who has the blue arrow coming out of him. This is to freeze the linebackers and safeties just one extra second and give Quinshad a leg up in the race to the endzone.
This looks like an easy throw to any armchair quarterback watching, but it actually requires a lot of footwork and timing. Marquise has to square his feet and shoulders at his target, a tough 90 degree turn that happens really quickly in real time.
In this case, Marquise misses Quinshad badly. You can see from the blue circle below where the ball ends up- high and to the wrong side of Davis. Marquise Williams has to work on executing these throws better. In order for the offense to run at its best, these kinds of passes have to be made and have to result in positive yards. In this case, Quinshad picks up the first down behind a good block from Eric Ebron. It probably could have been a touchdown had Marquise hit Davis in a better spot.
Lets take a closer look at the value Marquise brings to UNC’s offense with his running abilities. The image below is a simplified diagram of a zone read run. Khris Francis will run towards the far side of the field, while Marquise Williams will run up the middle. The trick is that Marquise has to read the circled Cincy defender and decide whether to keep the ball himself or hand it to Khris Francis.
The blue circle is the mesh point, which is where the running back and the QB meet. Here Marquise keeps his eyes focused on the circled defender and reads his shoulders. Notice how everyone else on Cincy’s defense is frozen, waiting to see how the play will unfold.
On this particular play, Marquise keeps the ball himself and rumbles for a first down. Notice how the four circled Cincy defenders all iniitally reacted towards Khris Francis, then had to backtrack and chase Marquise down. Also notice how Marquise breaks the first tackle from the Cincy D-Lineman. Williams is not an easy quarterback to tackle at 6’2″ 215 pounds.
Why do I bring all this up? This zone read concept was something UNC specifically installed for Marquise Williams in the middle of the season. UNC could never pull off this kind of play with Bryn Renner or a traditional quarterback at the helm. The value that Williams brings to UNC’s offense as a dual threat is huge because it opens up the playbook for so many different runs and option sets.
In conclusion, Marquise Williams has shown flashes as a passer, but needs to work on executing throws deep down the field and to the sidelines before he will be his best as a passer for North Carolina. But Marquise brings a unique ability to run the football that greatly helps out UNC’s running game. With a 5-2 record as starting quarterback this season, Marquise Williams proved that he is good enough to lead the Tar Heels to victory. As he continues to improve, look for Marquise Williams to be a breakout candidate for an All-ACC team next season.