UNC quarterback Marquise Williams had his best performance of his young starting career as a Tar Heel this past Saturday against Old Dominion. The Mallard Creek product threw for 409 yards and five touchdowns in the win over the Monarchs and has really come into his own since getting his first starting chance against Virginia Tech a couple months ago.
On Tuesday night during his weekly radio show, the last of the season, Larry Fedora talked about Williams' outing in the 80-20 win against Old Dominion.
"He was hitting on all cylinders. He was distributing the ball where it was supposed to go. Reading coverage's very well, felt very comfortable back there," said Fedora. "I think our offensive line did a great job of protecting him and he just let it go."
Fedora believes this is a much better version of Williams than the one that began the year and attributes all of it to his ability to learn the offense become more accustomed to what he's seeing on the field.
"Yeah, there is no doubt about it," said Fedora. "He's so much more comfortable back there and the decision making process that you're now able to see what he can do within the offense."
While Williams has made tremendous progress, so has the Tar Heel defense which was allowing points and yardage at an alarming rate earlier in the year. Now, while far from perfect, the unit has taken it upon themselves to demand more and expect better results.
They put out a dominant display this past Saturday, but according to Fedora, that wasn't good enough for the players that man that unit.
"It was. I mean, they were frustrated that they gave up that one big run. They were disappointed that they gave up that one big run because they felt pretty good about what was going on out there," said Fedora. "I was proud of the fact that Jabari Price ran the running back down again from a long way back. He gave tremendous effort but we just weren't able to keep them out of there on that one."
Freshman Ryan Switzer is on the verge of setting some NCAA records in the punt return department. He tied an NCAA record by returning a punt for a touchdown in his third consecutive game and can set the record if he continues that trend this weekend.
"The best thing about it is he's just a puppy. He is just now coming into his own feeling comfortable out there. If he had felt this way earlier in the year he would have returned a couple more punts (for touchdown)," said Fedora. "There is no doubt in my mind. So, I'm looking forward to what happens this Saturday."
It might have taken longer than the fan base and coaching staff had hoped, but the Tar Heels have put together some impressive stat lines on the ground recently. They amassed 312 yards rushing against Old Dominion and Fedora expects the running game to keep improving.
"It has, just like the rest of the team, that part of that unit has improved each week and their starting to gel. The offensive line feels more comfortable with one another," said Fedora. "You know, whether we have the freshman at left guard, or right tackle or whether we have one at center and right tackle. There doing a nice job and the backs are starting to get more comfortable with them. Therefore you're seeing more explosive plays."
The Tar Heels got some somewhat stunning news on Monday as Eric Ebron made the announcement that he would forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. While it's certainly not a surprise that Ebron would consider and possibly make the call to enter the draft, the timing was interesting with so much time left in this year.
Fedora doesn't hold it against his star offensive weapon and wishes him well. He also thinks he has a chance to be one of the best at his position at the next level.
"I would love to have him back just because he makes me laugh most of the time. But, Eric's a great kid, he's done things the way we've asked him to do it, he's a great team player, he's got a tremendous opportunity ahead of him. They claim that he'll be the first tight end taken in the draft, he's a finalist for the Mackey Award, he's had a great year and a great career here at Carolina and I'm excited for his future," said Fedora. "If he stays healthy---I think I've have had four or five that have played in the NLF from that position---Eric is unique in that he has the skills to be very, very special up there. Especially with what they're doing with tight ends like with Jimmy Graham of the Saints---he's that type of athlete."
As for who UNC will use to replace Ebron's productivity, there are a couple of tight ends coming in the 2014 class, Brandon Fritts and Avery Edwards, along with some returning veterans that Fedora expects to fill the gap.
"That is true, there are a couple that we can't talk about. But, we've got two we expect coming in this class, we've got Jack Tabb will be coming back and Eric Albright so we'll be fine at the position. I'm not going to say that anybody's going to do what Eric's done---he's a pretty special player---but we'll get a lot of production out of that position."
The last week of the season brings along with it a ton of emotions in Chapel Hill. For starters, there is the big rivalry game against a really good Duke team. It also marks the last time this year's senior class will take the field at Kenan Memorial Stadium.
All of those factors lead Fedora to believe he won't need to do anything extra to motivate his squad this week during practices.
"I really don't think I have to do anything. Our kids, believe me, they know what's going on. They can still hear that bell ringing from last year. So, I don't really have to say much about it. We talked a little bit about it on Sunday at our team meeting like we normally do. We're preparing now. I don't think that I will have to try and motivate our guys. I think they'll be motivated," said Fedora. "If you think about that class and what all they've been through at their time here at North Carolina, I'm really proud of those guys and the way they've held this football team together. Especially when we were 1-5 and there were a lot of doubters out there. Those guys just stayed the course and believing in each other and that's why we are where we are right now."