They call him the Swamp Monster. Just exactly why is a mystery that Terry Williams is yet to solve.
“I don’t really know where it came from,” Williams said. “One day (defensive line coach Marc Yellock) came in and said, ‘What’s up Swamp Monster.’ I don’t really know where it came from, but I like the name. I embrace it.”
Williams might not be able to solve the origin of his moniker, but he had no trouble figuring out how to penetrate the Virginia Tech offensive line this past Saturday, as he led a dynamic defensive performance in the first half of East Carolina’s 28-21 victory over the No. 17 Hokies.
Williams, the Pirates’ 6-5, 353-pound senior nose tackle, made his return to action after missing the first two games of the year with an ankle injury and was a beast up front. ECU (2-1, 0-0 AAC) held the Hokies to 6 yards of total offense in the first quarter and did not allow a first down until the second quarter to bank a 21-7 halftime lead.
Listed as questionable leading into the game, Williams played 30 snaps and looked in midseason form, disrupting several passing plays and holding his ground against the run. Williams finished the contest with five tackles, a half-sack, a half-tackle for a loss and one QB hurry.
“Terry had a big impact on this defense,” linebacker Zeek Bigger said. “… Everybody knows Terry is a big guy. He’s very quick on his feet. He played linebacker a long time ago (at Grayson High School, Ga.), so it helped out a lot.”
ECU defensive coordinator Rick Smith said Williams’ strength makes him extremely tough to block one-one-one, and the extra attention paid to him creates opportunities for others.
“He only practiced two days last week and I was amazed at how he played,” Smith said.
Williams admitted to being sore Sunday, but Smith said he expects to start him against North Carolina (2-0, 0-0 ACC) at 3:30 p.m.
Williams could be an even bigger factor as the Tar Heels feature a youthful offensive line that will be minus right guard Landon Turner, their most experienced lineman. True freshman Jared Cohen is expected to take his place, while sophomore Lucas Crowley starts at center and will be head up with Williams.
When Smith was asked if he saw any matchups along the line of scrimmage he felt he could exploit, he simply said, “Yes.”
Getting to Tar Heels quarterback Marquise Williams is one thing, but catching him is another. Williams (39-58-2, 424, 4 touchdowns) is North Carolina’s leading passer and rusher (116 yards) and could create big problems via draws and broken plays.
“We’re just going to work on containing the quarterback,” Terry Williams said. “They have a lot of QB draws with Marquise Williams. We just have to contain him. I don’t feel like he’s that great of a passer, so we’re going to work on that the rest of the week.”
Smith was a bit more concerned.
“I worry about our gap integrity and our rush lanes in the passing game,” Smith said. “(Williams) is about 212 pounds and can run, so I worry about us not being in our rush lanes and him pulling it down and scrambling.”
That scenario would present another riddle to Williams: Can a swamp monster catch up to a dual-threat quarterback? The answer will be revealed Saturday.