Against FBS-level opponents, Williams’s completion percentage dipped to 55.8 percent and his rating fell to 123.8. And while former UNC offensive coordinator Blake Anderson acknowledged last fall that Renner had more throws at his disposal, it’s hard to dismiss Williams’s 61.8 completion percentage and 8-0 TD-INT ratio in the red zone.
On Sunday, at the ACC Kickoff media event at Grandover Resort, the red-shirt junior pointed to his running ability (536 yards, 6 TD in ‘13) as a reason for the criticism of his passing ability.
“It’s probably because I’m more athletic and I can run,” Williams said. “I really haven’t been able to show myself in a whole season. Once I’m able to establish myself during a whole season and let everybody know what I can really do, that’s when you can judge me.
“I played in a spread in high school and a lot of people are going to judge off high school. ‘Oh, he wasn’t this and he wasn’t that.’ Nobody has seen me in a full college season, so I’m going to shock the world by doing that this year.”
Williams has spent the offseason fine-tuning his mechanics. He attended George Whitfield quarterback camp in the spring and the Manning Passing Academy earlier this month.
A clearer understanding of his throwing motion has wiped away the defensiveness that was prevalent last fall. Williams is now forthcoming about his trouble areas and how he’s strived to correct them.
“You get lazy at times when you want to throw,” Williams said. “You don’t use all of your legs or you don’t use your core, and that’s one thing I’ve been working on.”
He highlighted a play against Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl last December where threw a seam route to Eric Ebron.
“I looked back at my mechanics and it was a good ball, but my mechanics were off,” Williams said. “I needed to tighten it up. I look back at things like that and it’s just following through, delivering the football and putting velocity on it. There was velocity on the football, but I was still throwing off my back leg and leaning back.”
According to Williams, working out with Whitfield and the Manning brothers has forced him to stay on top of his mechanics and prevents him from falling back into his old habits. Basic drills, such as running toward his target on moving throws, help ingrain the proper weight transfer to his front foot.
It also helped that Peyton Manning didn’t buy the passing ability criticism, according to Williams. The elder Manning brother praised his arm strength and his foot work.
“When he gave me that talk, I felt like nobody could tell me anything because it was Peyton Manning,” Williams said. “That’s the greatest in the game. He gave me so much confidence.”
Despite helping UNC close 2014 with six wins in its last seven games, Williams told reporters that he was not surprised upon learning the quarterback position would open up before spring ball started with red-shirt freshman Mitch Trubisky serving as the primary challenger.
From Williams’s perspective, competition is a key component of individual and team growth.
Renner and Williams brought two different playing styles to the field, but that’s not the case with Trubisky entering the fold. When asked about what separates the two quarterbacks, Williams replied: “To be honest, the only thing I see different is that I have played more. I know the game.”
Williams spoke highly of Trubisky as a competitor, a teammate and a friend. He also downplayed the red-shirt freshman’s confident talk in interviews about securing the starting job.
He declined, however, to answer whether or not he would be comfortable splitting time with Trubisky, adding that he felt as though his snaps last season affected Renner’s play.
Williams's concern is not Trubisky, but rather his own play heading into training camp.
“I’ve got to make these coaches believe in me as the No. 1 quarterback going into this season,” Williams said.
Dismissing the question marks surrounding his passing ability will likely play a critical role in securing the starting job.