After missing a chunk of the spring season, including the spring game, following arthroscopic knee surgery, senior right tackle Brennan Williams spent the summer months rehabbing and working to get back into strength for the fall.
It was a tedious period that consumed a lot of time for the Massachusetts native but it appears to have been time well spent, as Williams is back healthy and in the UNC starting lineup as the Tar Heels get closer to September 1st's season opener in Kenan Stadium against Elon.
"(The summer was) really, really boring. I spent I don't know how many hours---probably a bunch of months added up together in the training room---whether it just be lift and training room or class and training room. But you've got to rehab like a beast to get better," Williams told Tar Heel Illustrated this past week.
While missing the spring game was naturally not optimal for Williams, the good thing about the spring period is he was able to practice in the majority of UNC's on-the-field sessions in March, allowing him to get an advance feel for the new spread offense leading into camp.
"I actually got in a lot more in spring ball than I thought. I was talking to my dad (former NFL lineman Brent Williams) the other day and he said I got 10 out of 15 practices in (during the spring)," Williams said.
The first week and a half of training camp this August was a transition for Williams back to the practice field and running at game tempo, but things have progressed well enough where he's back with the 'ones' and running full speed in workouts as training camp weeks and UNC gets closer to normal game-week preparations.
"Just kind of getting the strength back in my leg. I haven't been able to do that much in the offseason. So it's just been testing it out (in camp), being confident, and I really feel that I've gotten most of that back just running," Williams said.
"I definitely know everything (in the offense from the spring). It's let me get into it so I can kind of just jump in now. But mental reps are definitely really important."
"I'm back. I'll be there for Elon. It's awesome, honestly. I've been sidelined for way too long, and it's great to be back," he continued. "My theme for this year is be bad and finish. So that's what I've been kind of trying to focus on."
One the things that's made Williams' transition back to the field this summer easier is the camaraderie he has with fellow starters and multi-year starters including Jonathan Cooper, James Hurst, and Travis Bond.
"It's great (the experience we all have)," Williams said. "We said it last year, just the fact are the guys who came in together. We all came in around the same time. James came in early. 'Coop was in a little earlier than me and 'Trav, but it's just that familiarity and the fact that we can just sit down and have a new attitude this year, and we can just bring it."
Like Bond, Williams dropped a few pounds during the offseason, which has helped improve his explosiveness and agility.
Although Williams wasn't able to run at full speed this summer as he continued to rehab his knee, hard work in the gym focusing on his upper body, along with good eating habits, helped the rising senior shed a little weight leading up to the start of fall practice.
"I was all right (weight-wise). I had to lose a little bit," Williams said. "I guess they wanted me to lose a little bit, and it was hard because I wasn't running (during the summer). But I did get down 10 pounds and shaved off some body fat percentage, so that was good."
As Williams has gotten back into the groove working within the offense this summer, he's seen how the spread can exploit opposing defenses and put them against the ropes.
"We're so much better, and it's awesome. We're really seeing the new offense kind of starting to work with us, as opposed to in the spring when we were just getting used to it. Now we're really getting it," he said.
Coming off last weekend's practice, Williams sees a tempo that could make life quite difficult at times for teams charged with defending the Tar Heel offense.
"The biggest thing is just that tempo. I didn't really notice it until the scrimmage last week, but once the defense starts huffing and puffing, they don't get their lineups right, they don't get their stunts right, that's huge. And you don't even realize it until you're out there to see it," he said.
"I'm really excited. Sometimes you've just got to shake it up, you know? We've got the talent, I think. Easily we can be a great team this year if we just keep putting in the work."