Saturday, August 23, 2014

It took a while, but UConn's Williams picked up defense

Chris Elsberry
 Thursday, October 18, 2012

Trevardo Williams

STORRS -- He was going to quit football. He had originally gone out for the sport because he thought he could play receiver or running back. But Bridgeport Central coach Dave Cadelina had other ideas.

He put Williams on defense.

Williams didn't like it.

So he got upset and told his mother, Monica, that he was done with football. He was going to go back to running track. But Cadelina kept chirping in his ear that there was more to football then just speed. And when his mom said "do what you feel is right," Williams had a change of heart and kept the helmet and shoulder pads.

And he stayed on defense.

Fast forward to today. With one more sack, Williams will become UConn's all-time leader in sacks, a milestone he hopes to achieve tonight at the Carrier Dome when the Huskies face the Syracuse Orange.

Since arriving at UConn in 2008, Williams has totaled 26½ sacks, including 7½ this season, as the Huskies (3-4, 0-2 Big East) look to end a two-game losing streak and begin a turnaround reminiscent of 2010, when they won their last five games, shared the Big East title and represented the conference in the BCS Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma.

Mark Michaels, who played from 1982-85, holds the school record with 27 sacks. Sacks first became a countable stat in 1979.

When asked what the sack record would mean to him, the normally reserved Williams admitted it would be special.

"It's going to mean a lot to me," he said. "It means I came to UConn and left a legacy. I had a mark at this place, so it means a lot."

And it's not just sacks that Williams has collected. He stands sixth all-time in tackles for losses with 36 and has 122 career tackles.

"The thing I like about Trevardo, we all know how explosive he is coming off the ball, but he's playing the run very well and that's what I really like," Huskies head coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "Rushing the passer is his strength, but he's working awfully hard on his entire game. He quietly goes about his business. He's playing with very, very good effort, playing hard. I'm proud of what he's become."

Last season in 12 games, Williams recorded 43 tackles. Through just seven games in 2012, he's already posted 31 tackles and nine tackles for losses to go along with those 7½ sacks.

"I've coached some guys that had been pretty good getting off the ball and rushing the passer and from a `burst' standpoint," Pasqualoni said. "I think Trevardo has got as good a burst of getting off the ball as a lot of the kids I've been around. There's going to be a lot more to it at the next level, but he's got a big piece of the skill set that's required to play that position."

The "next level" that Pasqualoni spoke about is the NFL, and he feels that Williams has the potential and the ability to get there. In fact, he's comparing him to Dwight Freeney, who played for Pasqualoni at Syracuse from 1998 to 2001 and has spent the last 10 years in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts.

"His `get off' reminds me of Dwight Freeney," Pasqualoni said. "Dwight was a little bit thicker, a little bit heavier than Trevardo, but his `burst' off the ball reminds me a lot of a guy like Dwight, a guy like DeMarcus Ware (of the Dallas Cowboys). Those guys all had that `boom' (Pasqualoni snaps his fingers) off the ball."

It seems as though Williams has always had a knack for getting to the football. At Central, he totaled 16 sacks in his junior and senior years, earned back-to-back all-state honors -- and received a scholarship offer from then-UConn coach Randy Edsall, who first saw Williams running in the State Open track meet.

He came to Bridgeport from Jamaica with Monica when he was 9 years old. Along with football, he ran track, competing in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes. He placed second in both the 100 and 200 events in the Class LL meet and fifth in the 100 in the State Open as a senior.

He also spent a year at Canterbury Prep before UConn, concentrating on academics.

And although he's only had Williams under his wing for 19 games, Pasqualoni knows talent when he sees it.

"My first impression of Trevardo when I got here was, `Boy, he's quick.' Very, very quick," he said. "Trevardo, the last year and a half, has really developed his game. His pass rush was his strength but he's worked extremely hard on his run game and he's doing very well in developing those skills."

celsberry@ctpost.com; http://Twitter@elsctpost.com



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