Opponent Spotlight: Trae Williams

Inside Carolina
Posted Oct 11, 2006

South Florida has two of the finest cornerbacks in the Big East in juniors Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams. Jenkins leads the Bulls with eight pass breakups, but Williams is a true predator in the defensive backfield.

Williams already has five interceptions in six games for USF (4-2, 1-1 Big East), while North Carolina's (1-4, 0-3 ACC) entire team has one. His 25 tackles and four pass breakups speak to his versatility.

In between Saturdays, Bulls quarterback Matt Grothe knows better than to tempt his fate near Williams’ coverage area.

“There are certain guys you have to learn to stay away from,” Grothe said. “Whenever I look over in practice and see Trae, I’m like, ‘Crap.’”

Like the middle of the order on a successful hitting baseball club, the presence of Jenkins (14 tackles, one for loss) on the other side of the field has helped keep opposing offenses honest when taking aim at the USF defense.

In its current state with regard to offensive production (302.2 yards per game) – with a young quarterback and a sputtering ground game – John Bunting says defensive personnel placement is not paramount in UNC’s scheme of things.

“With the design of our offense at this point and this stage, we want to do things that make sense right now in terms of week-to-week progress,” Bunting said. “This guy is a playmaker, but I think it’s just a being of awareness of coverage in itself, and try to get the match-ups that best serve our offense.”

Williams, 5-feet-10, 185 pounds from Plant City, Fla., would have started all twelve games in 2005, but yielded on Senior Day against West Virginia. He still managed to finish the season with 39 tackles and two interceptions and was named the Bulls’ Special Teams MVP by his teammates.

As a freshman, Williams started the final seven games and returned an interception for a touchdown versus Tennessee Tech in the first game of his collegiate career.

He even gained enough respect during his redshirt year to win the team’s Golden Bull Award for best scout team member on offense.

If the Tar Heels decide not to avoid Williams’ side of the field, they’ll certainly want to know where No. 21 is at all times.

“You always want to know where everybody is located, but you usually don’t go by jersey number – you go by the design of the offense,” Bunting said. “When you face corners or safeties who are players like that, it’s hard to go away from him. There’s time for that, if you have an offense that’s that flexible.”

Still, Grothe has a warning about Williams that UNC quarterback Cam Sexton might want to heed.

“He baits you a lot,” Grothe said. “Trae has deceptive speed and a second gear.”

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