SALT LAKE CITY – Troy Williams signed with Washington as a top-ranked, dual-threat quarterback in 2013.
Two years later, Williams is the starter for Utah and he wants to show the fourth-ranked Huskies’ coaching staff what they missed out on. The Utes (7-1, 4-1 Pac-12) host Washington (7-0, 4-0) on Saturday.
Williams feels he never got a fair shake when Chris Petersen was hired to replace Steve Sarkisian at Washington in December 2013. USC poached Sarkisian from Washington and the Huskies plucked Petersen from Boise State. Williams spent his freshman season as a redshirt then played in five games under Petersen before transferring to Santa Monica College in California after the 2014 season.
Williams transferred to Utah in January and has led the Utes to the No. 17 ranking. He’s thrown for 1,725 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions while giving the Utes their best passing attack in years.
“It’s just pretty much more so on the whole coaching staff that was there that didn’t really appreciate me that much,” Williams said. “This is the big one that I’ve been waiting for, that everybody’s been waiting for. I can still remember the day I was telling everybody, just give me a year or two and I’ll be right back. And we just laughed about it. Now it’s actually here.”
Williams and Petersen, unsurprisingly, see their parting in different ways. Williams said Petersen never recruited him at Boise State and the quarterback was just never one of “his guys.” The decision was difficult because he had gotten comfortable with the school and is still close to many Washington players.
“I tried everything in my power to be what he wanted me to be, it just didn’t work out,” Williams said. “If you look through his past, certain quarterbacks he’s had, I don’t think too many of them are like me.
“It was tough. But the good thing about it, everybody that I talked to about leaving on the team, they were agreeing with me. Saying it would be the best decision for me. They were telling me, yeah bro, you’ve got to get out of here and try to get somewhere else. Everybody sees it. You’re not his guy. You guys aren’t clicking.”
Petersen pointed more to the natural attrition that comes with change.
“Those are chaotic times on everybody,” Petersen said. “We’re trying to figure out our identity on offense, and we had Cyler (Miles) and Jeff (Lindquist) and all those type of things. I think sometimes, at the end of the day, as you’re working through all those things, and you didn’t recruit a guy … the guy just says, maybe I just need a fresh start. I thought Troy was a good player when he was here, and I knew he’d go somewhere and be a really good player. I think that’s proven true.”
Petersen is known for his work with quarterbacks, including Kellen Moore, Ryan Dinwiddie and Jared Zabransky at Boise State. Washington sophomore Jake Browning has taken a significant step this season and his 26 touchdown passes are tied for No. 3 in the nation.
He said he treats potential transfers on a case-by-case basis and added that a new coaching situation is difficult on everyone.
“That’s hard on the coaches coming in, we don’t know the kids,” Petersen said, “the guys that recruited them aren’t here anymore, scheme may change, all those type of things.
“So it’s the only time I’ve really been involved with that, coming to a new place one time. We had a lot of turnover. I mean, a lot. I don’t think everybody realizes how many guys – that happens when you get a new crew in, everybody’s got to find the best fit for them.”
As frustrated as Williams was by the process, he believes the journey has made him a better man. He was humbled by moving back to California and attending junior college without a scholarship, but now he’s back on a national stage playing in a possible Pac-12 championship game preview.
“I may have to say a little something here and there just because it’s been two years,” Williams said. “Two years of straight trash talking between me and my buddies over there. So, I’m sure I’ll have a little something to say out there, but nothing too much. I’m trying to stay focused and keep my mind on the game.”
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