Miami Hurricanes: Even Jarren Williams was a little surprised he earned the starting job

Teammate on the ’Canes’ new quarterback: “He can throw the ball just perfect. Just perfect.”
Miami quarterback Jarren Williams signals from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Miami won 24-3. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Miami quarterback Jarren Williams signals from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Miami won 24-3. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Published August 13

CORAL GABLES — For most of the offseason, Jarren Williams seemed like Miami’s third-string quarterback. When USA Today examined the Hurricanes’ battle a week ago, he wasn’t even considered an option; only Tate Martell and N’Kosi Perry were.

But there Williams was with a crowd of reporters surrounding him Tuesday on media day, a day after Miami announced the redshirt freshman will make his first career start next week against Florida. Tight end Brevin Jordan walked by to serenade him with a chant of QB1 — a title that caught Williams slightly off guard.

“When they told me, it was, like, a surprise,” Williams said. “It was a very big moment for me.”

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It was especially big considering what happened last year. Williams played in only one game, attempting three passes and rushing for a garbage-time touchdown against Savannah State.

He was easy to overlook on the quarterback depth chart. Martell has sky-high potential, which is why he orally committed to Washington at age 14 and signed with Ohio State before transferring to Miami in the offseason. Perry was the most experienced option after starting six games for the ’Canes last year.

But Williams was no slouch, either. He was a blue-chip recruit, a U.S. Army All-American and a big get for Mark Richt. Teammates and coaches rave about the passing ability of the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Georgia native.

“He can throw the ball just perfect,” said tight end Larry Hodges, a Jesuit High product. “Just perfect.”

Welcome to the U, and all the attention that entails, Jarren Williams. (MATT BAKER | Times)
Welcome to the U, and all the attention that entails, Jarren Williams. (MATT BAKER | Times)

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“There’s throwers, and there’s passers,” offensive coordinator Dan Enos said. “Throwers throw the ball same trajectory, same speed. Jarren showed the ability to be a passer, to change speeds, arm angles, showed touch, showed arm strength when he needed, too. Jarren did it the most consistently.”

That showed up Saturday in what proved to be the turning point in the months-long competition.

Coach Manny Diaz said Williams has great arm talent, but what separated him from Martell and Perry was his feel for the game as a passer. His instincts were sharp, which is why he graded out at 88 percent in Saturday’s second scrimmage.

“Ultimately that was the deciding factor,” Diaz said.

Diaz and Enos began finalizing their choice Sunday. On Monday, they called in every quarterback individually to let them know their decision.

“I’ve got to kick it up a notch,” Williams said. “Knowing I’m the guy now, it comes with a lot of responsibility.”

It could also come with side effects given the nature of the transfer portal. A report from 247Sports said Martell wasn’t at practice Monday, but he was working with the rest of the team Tuesday. Neither Perry nor Martell were available to reporters at media day.

Does Diaz expect Perry and Martell to remain at Miami to compete for the still-undecided No. 2 job?

“I hope so,” Diaz said.

Eight months ago, there were similar questions about Williams.

He was frustrated after playing sparingly in his first year, and he, too, reportedly considered transferring in December — not that he wanted to talk about it Tuesday.

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“I don’t look back at all,” Williams said.

He doesn’t need to now, nor does he need to look over his shoulder.

The job is his.

GameDay coming

ESPN announced College GameDay will air from the Magic Kingdom before the Aug. 24 Miami-Florida game at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium. Walt Disney World will become the 85th site for the traveling show.

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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