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Merced College football's Ryan Williston his own worst critic

Merced College quarterback Ryan Williston has had an up and down start to the season. He'll try and right things today against San Joaquin Delta.
Merced College quarterback Ryan Williston has had an up and down start to the season. He'll try and right things today against San Joaquin Delta. SUN-STAR PHOTO BY MARCI STENBERG

At the snap of the ball, Ryan Williston falls into a three-step drop and fires a strike to receiver Don Moorman on a crossing route. Two plays later, Williston hooks up with Marquese McIntyre on a quick slant.

A few plays after that, it's a toss to tight end Kyle McMillin on an out route.

All three passes are delivered with pace, accuracy and hit the intended receiver in stride.

It's that kind of precision in summer workouts and early fall practices that made Williston the hands-down choice to be Merced College's starting quarterback.

It's also the kind of performance that the Blue Devils haven't seen consistently enough in their first two games.

"It can't all be put on Ryan," MC coach Tony Lewis said. "He can certainly play better, but he hasn't had a lot of help, either.

"Guys have dropped some balls that they shouldn't have, and we as a team have been putting him in tough situations where he's had to force some things.

"If you look at his numbers, he's ranked among the top quarterbacks in the state. If we were 2-0 instead of 0-2, nobody would be complaining."

Williston's assessment wasn't so kind.

"I'd say my performance has been pretty poor," Williston said. "I'm disappointed in all the basic stuff I'm doing wrong.

"I think it's a lot of little things I'm doing that are combining to turn into big things."

Williston has to play better.

He knows it.

Quarterback is a position judged by wins and losses, but it's still unfair to call the sophomore's performance in his first two collegiate starts poor.

Despite backing up Reid Herchenbach as a freshman a year ago, the slinger from Sonora had only taken a handful of snaps coming into the season.

Still, Williston has thrown for 401 yards and three touchdowns while learning on the fly.

Couple his lack of game experience with the fact that Williston isn't a natural pocket passer and his progress seems pretty good.

"I spent all last season learning to be in a passing offense," Williston said. "I ran the triple-option in high school, so I'm still getting used to hanging out in the pocket and passing from it."

Williston's comfort level hasn't been helped by the huge holes he and his teammates have dug in their first two contests.

The Blue Devils have been outscored 35-0 in the first quarter this season, all but forcing Lewis and his staff to abandon their offensive game plans.

MC's poor starts have also taken the play-action pass -- one of the offense's biggest weapons -- out of Williston's hands.

"Circumstances have forced Ryan to throw more than we'd have liked," Lewis said. "We're a team that wants to be balanced, but that hasn't worked out.

"The run game has been a little inconsistent and we've just had to play from behind too much."

The 38 pass attempts Williston had against Monterey Peninsula were easily the most of his quarterbacking career. He followed that up with 28 more in the loss to De Anza.

"In the option, I threw maybe 10 to 15 passes a game," Williston said. "This has obviously been a major difference.

"It's something I know I can do, but when things start going wrong my footwork usually gets away from me."

Lewis is encouraged by Williston's ability to move the offense.

Despite the huge disparity in points (76-20), the Blue Devils have actually outgained opponents 630 yards to 623 and have just as many first downs (36 each).

The next step in Williston's development is cashing in on scoring opportunities.

Turnovers and penalties have done plenty to keep MC off of the scoreboard, but Williston's 48.5 percent completion percentage and five interceptions have hindered things, as well.

As the Blue Devils get into the tougher part of their schedule -- beginning today with a trip to Stockton for a date with San Joaquin Delta (2-0) -- scoring more points will be essential.

The state's No. 15-ranked team has averaged just over 33 points and 403 yards in its first two contests.

"I need to be sharper," Williston admitted. "Some of those interceptions just weren't well-thrown balls.

"It's important for the quarterback to be a leader out there and that's what I'm going to try and do."

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