His size does not exactly scream defensive end. Neither does his speed.
But Trevardo Williams has made both work for him -- most especially this season at UConn. Williams is on a tear, leading the Big East with 12.5 sacks and ranking No. 2 in the nation in sacks per game (1.14). He ranks second in single-season school history in sacks and needs one more to pass the mark of 13. Nine of his sacks have come in the last four games, including a career-high four last week against Rutgers.
For a guy who measures 6-foot-1 and 231 pounds, Williams might better be suited to play linebacker. But his 4.4 speed allows him to get after the quarterback in a hurry. What makes him even better this season is that Williams has improved his technique so much, he does not have to rely on his speed alone. Now it is all about film study and taking the right angles, along with hand placement and leverage.
"The better your technique, the faster you're able to play," Williams said in a phone interview. "Technique has a lot to do with how I'm playing right now. I am able to do a lot of things out of reaction, and I have been able to train my body to do certain things. As I pass rush, I'm able to remember these movements and I'm able to perform it."
Williams started seven games last year and had 4.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. He relied mainly on his speed to get around offensive linemen. But in the offseason, that changed when he began to focus on improving himself. It has helped being in an aggressive defensive scheme and playing with an All-Big East tackle in Kendall Reyes, who demands so much attention.
He credits his teammates for helping him come free to get after the quarterback. As for the biggest change in technique, Williams says, "The key is to lock your arms out and punch under the arms to execute. Last year, I was trying to use more speed to get around the person. This year, it's more about taking the right angle and attacking the person more and using my arms to attack certain areas on the body to get around the person."
Against Rutgers, Williams said the Scarlet Knights were playing more of a pro-style scheme and that helped him get his sacks, too.
"It gave me the opportunity to pass rush the quarterback more, and since the run game is straight forward, it was easier to recognize certain plays and react," he said. "So that's one thing that helped me to play a little bit faster."
Coach Paul Pasqualoni calls him a "work in progress" but has been pleased with his development in the past four games. Williams said he didn't go into the season with a set goal for sacks, but wanted to improve that number from last season.
"At the start of the season, it wasn't a big goal for me to be the No. 1 leading sacker in the Big East," Williams said. "It was just an opportunity for me to play my very best and make as many sacks as I could. It was getting as much as possible -- even if it was 20. I feel good about it, but I feel I have another chance to get more sacks."