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August 7, 2012Redshirt freshman quarterback Marquise Williams is learning how hard it is to take one's game from the range to the course and have it translate successfully.
Williams had a sluggish start on Tuesday in the first day wearing pads. He heard about it.
"He's come along all right," Coach Larry Fedora said of Williams. "I wouldn't say today was his best day. He started out pretty slow and came on as the practice went. And that is what all these guys have to learn: When we move out on that field, you have to turn the switch on; you can turn it off when we come off the field. When we're on it, you've got to turn it on.
"He didn't turn it on until probably midway through practice."
The team has been consistent in its effort to follow instructions and learn the new schemes as quickly as possible. These players have proven to the coaches they want to do well.
But now the hard part is here, particularly for some of the younger players who are still gaining experience at this level. The act of turning knowledge into successful actions is a hurdle.
"I've got to speed up the process," Williams said. "I've got to be mentally in the game. Sometimes you can get sidetracked and you need a coach to tell you what you need to do to get it right.
"I've got to let things ease off my mind and come out here and think about only football."
Williams has to overcome himself to realize his full potential, senior wide receiver Erik Highsmith said.
"He's so hard on himself because he knows how good he can be," Highsmith said. "When he messes up, it messes up his whole day. When he learns that when you make a mistake, don't get down on yourself, just move onto the next play, he's going to be a great player."
Williams learned a lot about what he is supposed to do since spring practice began. He studied the offense during the summer and drilled with his teammates.
"I came a long way, but there is always time for improvement," Williams said. "Sometimes we quarterbacks still make silly mistakes we shouldn't be making. It comes down to mentality and how much you really want it -- just do what you have to do to make the play work."
So how much does he want it?
"I want it bad," Williams said. "I see myself today and this is not me. This is something I love to do in the spread offense, so I need to get it together and come out and be 100-percent focused.
"I was born to play in the spread," Williams said. "I guess it is different concepts that get me. Once I'm at it, I'm going to get it."
Williams is far from alone. Even Highsmith says the degree of difficulty rises as the team goes deeper into camp.
"It's getting tougher and tougher every day," Highsmith said. "Today I really felt the heat. I know what I'm capable of. The coaches know what I'm capable of. Every time they see me slack up a little bit, they are on me. I just try to pick myself back up."
Highsmith has the advantage of experience. He will be fine. For Williams, he can see where to go. Taking the proper steps to get there is the challenge.
"I can do more good reading [of defenses]," Williams said, "as far as throwing the ball where it supposed to be.
"The most improvement I need to make is the timing of the game, the timing of the receivers' routes and being on time with me. I need to quicken my feet to get it going and make the plays easier for me."
He realizes he does not have the luxury of learning at a slower pace as he did a year ago when he sat out as a redshirt. He is the next guy in line if something were to happen to starting QB Bryn Renner.
"Coach [Blake] Anderson mentioned that the other day," Williams said. "He said that he has never had a quarterback who played through a whole season.
"So I need to come out more focused, to be ready, to be prepared. The team needs at least two quarterbacks to rely on. I want the team to keep relying on me every day."
Tuesday was just one day. There is no reason to believe Williams will not continue to progress and turn his clear physical skills into becoming a complete quarterback.
What his experience shows, though, is that these players are not machines as they may sometimes appear to fans. There is a learning curve when advancing from being a high-school football player to becoming a college football player.
Williams, as with so many of his teammates, faces the test of keeping their spirits up while continuing to work toward the ultimate goal.
"This is what I love to do," Williams said. "I've been waiting for this moment. I need to cherish this moment."