Last season saw UNC recover from a 1-5 start to end the regular season at 6-6 then take a win over Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl. One factor in that turnaround was the play of Marquise Williams over the last half of the season. Williams, a dual-threat quarterback, made his first start for the injured Bryn Renner in a 27-17 loss at Virginia Tech. Following Renner's return, head coach Larry Fedora opted to split the time between Renner and Williams providing for a change of pace. Williams' mobility would serve as a counter to Renner's traditional pocket passing. However, with Renner knocked out for the season with a shoulder injury versus NC State, Williams became the only option.
With the starting job solely his, Williams made the most of it . In the five games following Renner's second injury, Williams completed 57% of his passes for 1161 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Solid numbers even if the eye-test regarding Williams' passing wasn't as favorable at times. Williams augmented his passing numbers with 335 yards on the ground or 5.4 yards per carry. The Charlotte-native also found the end zone five times. His ability to rush the ball was highly effective against Duke where Williams went for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
Williams level of play, his experience and the prospect of continued improvement made him the likely choice to start for UNC when the 2014 season rolled around. Larry Fedora and new offensive coordinate Seth Littrell apparently had different plans. When spring practice opened, Fedora made it known the quarterback position would be open for competition with rising redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky(and Kanler Coker) challenging Williams for the starting job.
The announcement raised some eyebrows and for good reason. Williams had proven himself to be more than capable and was a solid fit for Fedora's spread offense. He also had experience having made six starts and taken meaningful snaps in three other games. Was this Fedora simply pushing his presumptive starter or were there actual designs on moving Trubisky ahead of Williams on the depth chart?
The answer may be a little of both. It is also possible Fedora simply prefers Trubisky since he was recruited by Fedora and would therefore be a perfect fit for the system. Trubisky came to UNC as a highly touted quarterback out of the state of Ohio. Scout.com ranked Trubisky as the 15th best quarterback in the 2013 class. Trubisky and Williams give UNC plenty of talent at quarterback and two players who both are ready to get on the field.
In that respect Fedora could be trying to keep everyone happy and at the same time he is also looking to put the best option on the field to win games. Trubisky could very well be that option though there isn't much to go on in terms of actual game action. He had a solid outing in the spring game throwing for 183 yards on 20-32 passing and one interception. Outside of that and Fedora's obviously high evaluation of him, Trubisky is an unknown commodity. Even so, the competition has been called very close with Fedora saying a decision on the starter may not come until just before the Heels play Liberty on August 30th.
Even with the indecision, Larry Fedora and his staff are dealing with the proverbial "good problem." There are options at a key position not to mention some insurance against injury. If UNC has two capable quarterbacks who bring different qualities to the table it can only be beneficial to the team assuming the staff can maximize those qualities at the right time. When Renner returned from his first injury last season, Fedora employed a two quarterback system. It was unclear how effective it was and there were times when the subbing of one quarterback over another occurred at haphazard times. Switching QBs from one series to the next is logical but there were times when it felt like switching signal callers in the middle of a series broke the rhythm of the offense. Avoiding those pitfalls is critical in getting the two quarterback system to work well.
Whatever happens with the quarterback position, the fact Fedora will have two QBs who are fits for his spread offense is a factor that should not be overlooked. Bryn Renner left UNC as one of the best passers in Tar Heel history. However he was also never a perfect fit for Fedora's system. Williams and Trubisky both are and by extension the offense in the Tar Heel coach's third year should start running on all cylinders.