UNC confirmed in early February that Williams, a four-star dual-threat quarterback out of Charlotte, was not enrolled for the spring semester, although he was still considered a member of the football team. Team sources told InsideCarolina.com that academics were the culprit.
While the 6-foot-2, 215-pound red-shirt sophomore could have vanished from the college football scene like so many other prominent recruits do on a regular basis, he stayed in constant contact and was ever-present during UNC’s spring practice season.
Williams re-enrolled for the summer session, competed with true freshman Mitch Trubisky during training camp for the backup role and has since proven to be an effective change-of-pace option behind starting quarterback Bryn Renner.
Williams has played a series in three games this season, completing his only pass for 15 yards and rushing three times for 12 yards. Against Middle Tennessee, Williams connected with freshman wide receiver Bug Howard for a 15-yard touchdown pass to give UNC a 40-13 lead with 2:24 to play.
For his career, Williams has completed 11-of-18 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 32 rushes for 205 yards.
“We kind of have plans to integrate him a little bit into every game,” UNC offensive coordinator Blake Anderson said last week. “I think he brings a different element to the field than Bryn, so it’s something that we want defenses to have to prepare for. It also gets him some snaps out in live situations where, if it were to ever happen that Bryn gets hurt, then he’s not going out completely cold.”
As it turns out, Renner did get nicked up in last Saturday’s loss to East Carolina. Midway through the fourth quarter, Renner was sacked and immediately grabbed his left ankle.
On Monday, he showed up to UNC’s weekly press conference wearing a walking boot on his left foot. He declined to disclose the injury or how it happened, but told reporters he planned to play against Virginia Tech. Anderson and head coach Larry Fedora have made similar statements throughout the week.
Regardless, Anderson’s intent to get Williams live game action serves a critical purpose. As coaches like to say, a backup is only one turned ankle away from having to enter the game.
“He’s a good football player,” Fedora said recently. “He brings another element to the game that we don’t have with Bryn. As you well know, Marquise can really run. He can run through you. He can make you miss and he does some nice things. He’s got a good touch on the ball. He understands what we’re doing so we try to have packages for him each week so that we can utilize him in the game.”
As for Williams, he insists he’s moved past the “immature” decisions that sidelined him in the spring.
“Missing football was the best thing for me at the time, but I love the game, so I knew missing the spring was going to hurt me,” Williams said. “I had to come back and be more mature, come be more of a leader and be more vocal. I was always just quiet and never really talked that much. Now I’m more vocal and I’m just more excited to play.”
When his chance for full time duty will come remains to be seen, but Williams is focused on maximizing every opportunity this fall to improve his game and help UNC win ball games.
Tate Frazier contributed to this story.