UK’s quarterback of the future, Jarren Williams, has continued a steady climb up the recruiting rankings over the past few months and is now universally considered to be a four-star prospect.
He’s also universally listed as a “dual-threat” quarterback, a designation that sometimes causes talented passers — like Williams — to bristle.
The future Wildcat has described himself to the Herald-Leader in the past as not a dual-threat QB but “a pocket-passer that has the ability to extend plays with my feet.” The dual-threat label carries with it the stereotype of a quarterback who does most of his damage on the ground and can pass when needed.
Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell said that’s not really the true definition of the position designation, and he agrees with Williams’ description of his own game.
“Yeah, he’d prefer to pass first,” Farrell told the Herald-Leader recently. “It’s not like he’s running the ball 200 times a year. He’s definitely a pass-first guy, but he did score almost double-digit touchdowns with his feet last year. He’ll probably score double-digit touchdowns with his feet this year. So I don’t disbelieve that he’s a pass-first guy. A dual-threat — to us — is a guy who can run when needed.”
Farrell’s definition makes “dual threat” sound more like a compliment than a curse. Yes, these players can make plays with their feet, but many of them can sling the ball, too.
Williams is certainly one who can do both, but that hasn’t always been the case.
Farrell noted that Williams completed only 47 percent of his passes as a sophomore, then made a big jump to a 60-percent completion rate last fall as a junior. He’s also completed 60 percent of his passes (91-for-152) through four games this season.
That type of improvement is not uncommon for young players who have the ability to run the ball, Farrell said, mentioning Vince Young and Terrelle Pryor as two eventual college stars who struggled to throw early in their high school careers.
“They had just the worst throwing mechanics ever in their early years of high school,” he said. “And they improved that steadily, but still — if they weren’t able to run or move around — they’d have a lot of trouble. And I think that’s where Jarren is. If you make him a pocket passer specifically — don’t allow him to move around and make some plays — he could struggle.”
Williams acknowledges that standing around in the pocket isn’t his game either.
He’s mentioned Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers as a player he tries to emulate. Rodgers is one of the best passers in the NFL, but he also excels by making plays with his feet, moving the pocket to lengthen plays and give his receivers more time to get open and sometimes running the ball if he sees an opportunity.
Players who are able to do that are tougher to evaluate, and camp settings often don’t allow those skills to be fully displayed or appreciated.
“Sometimes they don’t look good in a pocket setting,” Farrell said. “When we see them in the spring and the summer, there’s usually no running around.
“(Williams) does a lot of his work improvised, and sometimes those guys can look bad in settings where things aren’t improvised. For dual-threat quarterbacks that are more dangerous when the actual games are being played and defenses have to account for them, you can see that marked improvement.”
UK fans can get an early glimpse at Williams’ abilities starting Tuesday night with the debut of the “Elite 11” series on NFL Network. The show, which will air at 10:30 p.m., is scheduled to be a six-part, weekly series chronicling the annual camp for the nation’s top quarterbacks.
Williams participated in this year’s camp and drew praise for his play there.
So far this fall, he has thrown for 1,242 yards and 10 touchdowns (with just two interceptions) in four games. He’s rushed for 173 yards and two scores.
“The biggest thing with him is he’s improved greatly in his decision making, but he does excel outside the pocket,” Farrell said.