Early Look at UNC QB Marquise Williams

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On Thursday, September 3, the Gamecocks play the North Carolina Tarheels in Charlotte. The Tarheels return ten starters on offense, including their star quarterback, Marquise Williams. Williams is a dual threat quarterback who led the Tarheels in rushing while also passing for more than 3,000 yards. He completed 63 percent of his throws. Many are putting Williams on early Heisman Trophy watch lists.

Las Vegas oddsmakers pegged North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams as a dark horse Heisman candidate after he orchestrated the ACC’s No. 3-ranked scoring offense in 2014.

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In 2014, Tarheel coaches relied heavily on Williams’ power running ability. He rushed the ball 193 times for 783 yards (net). The pounding took its toll. Williams took a lot of bone crushing hits and he limped his way through the Tarheels last few games. Orthopedic doctors diagnosed a labral tear in Williams hip and prescribed surgery to repair it.

labral tearOn February 2, Williams underwent arthroscopic surgery in Nashville. Athletes who play physical games like football are susceptible to this injury.

The labrum is a piece of cartilage between the ball at the top of the leg, and the hip socket into which the ball fits. When you walk or run, the leg bone articulates against the socket. When the cartilage is torn, running and walking become painful.

The operation to repair a torn labrum is typically arthoscopic, a minimally invasive procedure, which attempts labral refixation and debridement. This means that a surgeon  will attempt to reattach the labrum to the bone. Any parts that cannot be attached are debrided (snipped away). Generally, any cartilage repair is difficult because cartilage has few blood vessels making regeneration of new cartilage tissue improbable. The typical recovery period after this kind of operation is four to five months. This suggests Williams will be fully recovered in early July at the latest.

As a policy, UNC releases little information about player health. But in this case, it disclosed the nature of Williams’ injury, the fact Williams underwent this surgery, and the projected full recovery month (July). UNC’s coach Fedora recently announced Williams is a month ahead of schedule. All accounts, including Williams own statement, indicate he will be 100 percent recovered by August. Wisely, Fedora says UNC is taking care to insure that Williams does not over-exert himself during the spring and summer and suffer a setback.

Williams didn’t play in Tarheels spring football practices. Unless Fedora is lying, he also may be unable to fully participate in the typical, informal quarterback – receiver voluntary practices during the early summertime. Certainly, this reduced practice time could theoretically affect the timing between Williams and the receivers. On the other hand, Williams, a senior, executed this Fedora fast-pace offense for the entire 2014 season. Unless he suffers an aggravation of his hip injury this summer, I doubt Williams operation will have any impact on coordination between Williams and the Tarheels receivers.

Williams’ Twitter feed indicates he is hungry. He feels the ACC touts disrespected him in ranking him as just the fourth best quarterback in the conference. Watch for Williams to come into the game against South Carolina with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. He is going to be a major challenge for the Gamecock defense.

One factor that might play in the Gamecock favor is over-caution by Tarheels offensive coaches. Tarheels coaches claim they will reduce the load on Williams this season. Presumably, they mean that they will not ask Williams to run the ball 15-20 times a game like last year. The statements show that Tarheels coaches are worried about the probability of Williams re-injuring his repaired hip.

Calling quarterback runs were a significant element of the Tarheels offense last season. If the Gamecock defense is physical and intimidating when Williams tries to run, it could intimidate the Tarheels coaches (if not Williams). Keeping the Tarheels coaches thinking about protecting Williams hip could effectively remove one of the Tarheels key offensive weapons.

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