August 31, 2009

Williams looms large in secondary

The surname 'Williams' is a very important one in this day and age within the athletic landscape at the University of North Carolina.

The name will always be significant in basketball so long as Hall of Famer Roy Williams is still coaching, but on the football field it's also a important last name, as two of UNC's top safeties, Deunta Williams and Melvin Williams, along with a freshman offensive lineman Brennan Williams, all share the name.

For Melvin, who came in last season as a JUCO transfer and played primarily on special teams, he got his big break to show what he could in the Tar Heel secondary this past spring, as he filled in for Deunta, who was out with a wrist injury.

"Coming into the spring Deunta was hurt, so I had to step up," he said. "One of my biggest goals for this year was to get on the field. Not only special teams but defense, too, so lately I've been doing good at that."

Williams looked sharp during the spring drills, showing the UNC coaching staff that he could play after struggling with the speed during his first autumn in Chapel Hill.

"I think it's kind of somewhat indicative sometimes of Junior College players that the very first year is just learning the transition from the speed of Junior College football to Division I football, and now his instincts (have improved). He's making some good plays," said UNC head coach Butch Davis.

"Last year was like my first year playing football ever when I was younger," Williams said. "I didn't know what was going on. It was so fast. I felt like I was running a 4.8 and everybody else was running 4.1's, but this year is a lot different.

"I feel like I'm comfortable at every position I play. I know what I'm doing at every position, and on special teams I know what I'm doing, too. That's just a big thing right there. The game has slowed down to me," he said.

Deunta Williams has returned to the UNC rotation this summer and has re-gained his starting position, but Melvin has shown that he does have the skills to enter the game now and not have a huge drop-off.

"Our coaching staff keeps talking about Melvin Williams, how good a camp that he has had," said Davis.

"The biggest thing about this year's safeties is the 'ones' and 'twos' know everything. Last year the 'twos' were kind of iffy," Williams said. "That's why we didn't see much playing time. But this year Coach (Everett) Withers can put the 'twos' with the 'ones,' and he can put the 'ones' in with the 'twos,' so that's a big thing this year that we can play two-deep."

Along with playing a more prominent role in the secondary as a backup safety, Williams is also good to be looked upon for production at the 'nickel' back position now that the team has lost Matt Merletti for the season.

"I got a bread crumb from Matt Merletti because he was down with the ACL tear, so they moved me up to 'nickel'," Williams said. "That's another bread crumb, even though Matt is down. I've still got him in my prayers and everything."

Having played nickel during his JUCO days in Kansas, Williams does have familiarity with the position and has grown into it over the past few weeks. He says it's very familiar to the strong safety position he's been working at over the course of typical practices.

"Yeah, (I played nickel) at the Junior College level, because we rocked down at the strong safety, and that's what nickel play is---pretty much the 'slot'. So I have a lot of experience in the nickel," he said.

"It's just like strong safety, you know, the same responsibilities," he added. "I'm kind of familiar with it. It just needs to slow down to me. I think day after day it's slowing down to me, and I'm getting comfortable with it. With nickel, you're zoned in to one man. The nickel spot is just a 'feeling' thing. It's just like when you break (in coverage running) you'll know when you're breaking because you're just feeling it. It's a feeling thing. That's my biggest goal right now in nickel is getting ready for breaks, getting comfortable with that."

While he hasn't yet gotten a particularly big hit during a game at Carolina, Williams has earned a reputation among his teammates for being one of the team's hardest hitters.

"Yeah, that's one thing I carry is the hard-hitting (reputation)," he said. "That's one thing---ever since I was young I just loved to fill the gap. I loved to feel that energy come to you and you get up from on top of somebody (after tackling them) and you're just looking at them. It just feels so good to me, so that's why I bring the hat every time I see someone with the ball."

Like his defensive teammates, Williams says the biggest key in terms of the defense as a whole is the fact that there's so much talented experience on the team this year.

"The defense this year is a lot better," he said. "I mean, the coaches can't even tell the veterans what to do because they know everything. They see everything now. Coach Withers now feels that he can play the 'ones' and the 'twos.' So that's a big thing about the defense this year."

"We're quick. We fly to the ball. We're communicating to each other. The defensive line is communicating to the linebackers. The linebackers are communicating to the secondary. That's the big thing about this year is communicating," Williams added. "We're still fast and getting to the ball, and that's the key. The ball is the issue."






 

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