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April 3, 2011North Carolina has a new man on the job at the starting right tackle position this spring---and the really good thing about it is he's not new at all.
Brennan Williams has had two full years to groom and prepare himself for the opportunity to step into UNC's starting lineup, and now he's eager to capitalize.
"It feels completely and utterly awesome---I love it. I love being the main guy at my position," Williams said.
"Even last year, even though I was competing, I didn't really know going in. So now I'm falling into that position. I can take a leadership role and I feel really good going in."
Williams was able to find his way into UNC's two-deep rotation right away when he arrived at Carolina in 2009, and his two seasons of working behind Mike Ingersoll provided him an opportunity to learn the Tar Heel offense and get a feel for the college game without the intense pressure of being the main guy right away.
But obviously it's a good thing that he has gotten to play.
He saw heavy action in the Meineke Bowl loss to Pittsburgh as a freshman, and then got to play quite a bit in 2010.
And now with the graduation of Ingersoll, Williams is ready to emerge as a big-time player at the college level.
"For me it's all about just getting my technique down. The past couple of years have been all about learning the plays and learning what I needed to do," he said.
"This year I've got to kind of apply that knowledge with my own aggressiveness and put that together with good technique so that I really come together as a complete package."
Williams admits he is a little anxious knowing he's stepping into a considerably more prominent role, but he knows the speed of the game much better now.
He knows the feel of getting to the second level of the defense and getting a hat on a linebacker.
He knows how to react better to 'twists' by the defensive end and the defensive tackle.
He knows more instinctively know when to expect a blitz than when he got to college.
All these things will greatly aid Williams when he finally does take the field as Carolina's starter next September.
"It does feel good, but at the same time you feel a little bit nervous," Williams said.
"I have gotten an opportunity to play, which is really good compared to Bryn (Renner), who has only had one play in the last two years. But I do kind of feel the same way."
"The last time I played a full game was in high school. It's nerve-wracking but it's still exciting," he added.
Williams is a little unique from a lot of players in that he has a National Football League father to toss ideas off of.
Former NFL defensive end Brent Williams is a fine reservoir of information for his son as he finds his way on the gridiron, and Brennan prudently uses this source to enhance his skill set.
"My dad actually played the opposite position of me, so he can always tell me the kinds of things that he would hate to go against as a defensive end. So that's definitely been a big help," he said.
"I've always asked for his advice when it comes to like, 'Dad, I'm on a run block. What do I do on this?' and then he's kind of got something for me."
For Williams, this is a pretty good time to be stepping into North Carolina's starting offensive line.
The Tar Heels have a five-man group of players---three juniors, a senior, and a sophomore---that have all now had measurable playing experience.
They are now working to find that necessary cohesion and execution to help steer along Carolina's offense.
To be frank, the young Tar Heel offensive backfield needs everything the UNC offensive linemen can give them while they're working their collective way in.
Williams, for one, thinks this group of UNC linemen can be special.
"I think in the spring it's all about just changing our identity as a line. Before we've always kind of been the quiet guys on the team," he said.
"But I think now with the guys that we've got and the direction we're going in, I think we've got an opportunity to be like a really nasty, mean, scary line."
The goal for the season is just to be the best line in the country, and I think we can do that," Williams added.
So exactly how does an offensive line get mean and scary, you might ask?
"You've just got to be. It's just got to be in your heart," Williams said. "When you get out to practice you've got to go out there and you can't fear anybody on our team."
Going against the likes of Quinton Coples in practice, Williams and his mates had better do something to get themselves ready.
"Coples is a beast, and I know I'm going to be better for it afterwards, after this spring," Williams said.
"You know you're going against the best guys out there on our team. So when we go out there and we step out on that field in the fall, we know we can be nasty and angry."
With Bryn Renner working himself into the starting role at quarterback, it's even more important for Williams to get up to speed quickly.
"Yeah, I think there are a lot of expectations when it comes to the line," Williams continued. "We've got a lot of protecting to do definitely. But that's all part of the job. It doesn't matter how inexperienced our quarterback is. We've got to do our job and he'll do his."
Williams lives with one of his offensive line teammates and say he's spends considerable time with the rest of them.
That familiarity level should only serve to help them when they take the field together.
"Not only we're all seasoned, we know what's going on. We trust in each other. We're all really good friends I think," he said.
"I'm roommates with James Hurst, hang out with Jonathan Cooper all the time. Travis Bond is another of my really good friends, and Cam Holland."
"So I feel we're really gelling as a unit and you'll be able to see that in the spring game."
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