He’s already committed twice to the University of Kentucky, but there’s still no guarantee that star quarterback recruit Jarren Williams will ultimately be a Wildcat.
A roller-coaster recruitment that started with Williams’ commitment to UK in June of last year took its first major turn when he backed off of that pledge the following April. A few weeks later — after exploring scholarship offers from such schools as Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana State — Williams again committed to the Cats.
It’s not over yet.
The 6-foot-2 prospect from Lawrenceville, Ga., has now scheduled official visits to Miami, Ohio State and Auburn for the next three weekends.
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The Cats officially have cause for concern.
“I definitely think you should be worried when you line up official visits to Miami, Ohio State and Auburn,” 247Sports national analyst Steve Wiltfong told the Herald-Leader on Wednesday. “It’s obvious that he’s intrigued with some other opportunities, and he’s going to go check them out.”
Wiltfong listed Miami and Auburn as the two schools UK fans should fear most over the next few weeks, though he also referred to Ohio State as a place that recruits can “fall in love with real quick” when they visit.
Williams — ranked by 247Sports as the No. 7 dual-threat QB nationally for the class of 2018 — will start his official visit tour this weekend in Miami for the undefeated Hurricanes’ game against No. 3 Notre Dame.
Miami is now coached by Mark Richt, who has a long history of developing quarterbacks and is aware of Williams from his time in charge of the Georgia Bulldogs.
Central Gwinnett High School (Ga.) head coach Todd Wofford was a guest on this week’s SEC Recruiting Buzz podcast and said Williams is also familiar with Richt’s past success with quarterbacks.
“He’s looking at schools that have a pedigree of grooming quarterbacks,” Wofford said of his star player, noting that many of Williams’ teammates at The Opening all-star showcase this summer were Hurricanes’ commitments.
One of the hosts of the Recruiting Buzz podcast — 247Sports Georgia insider Kipp Adams — predicted after the interview with Wofford that Miami is now the team to beat for Williams, ranking UK at the bottom of the four schools left on the quarterback’s list.
Next weekend, Williams will be in Columbus for an official visit centered on the Ohio State-Illinois game. The Buckeyes currently have a commitment from four-star quarterback Emory Jones, but he’s expected by many — Wiltfong included — to flip his pledge to Alabama sometime soon. That would likely make Williams the top QB priority for OSU.
The following weekend, Williams will visit Auburn for the annual Iron Bowl matchup against rival Alabama. The Tigers have also been vigorously pursuing the UK commitment in recent months.
An official visit to Lexington is tentatively scheduled for early December.
Wiltfong said Williams’ longstanding relationship with the UK coaching staff — specifically Vince Marrow, who has taken over the primary recruiting role for the QB — and his bond with the Wildcats’ other commitments gives Kentucky some hope.
“Obviously, when you look at the four schools left in the mix, he knows the people at Kentucky the best and has been there numerous times,” Wiltfong said. “So, if you’re Kentucky, you’re just hoping that he thinks he’s the guy to get Kentucky over the hump, because they’ve been so close this year. They’re 6-3, but really should be 8-1. And maybe a guy like Jarren Williams is the difference in those ballgames.”
UK starting quarterback Stephen Johnson will be gone after this season, and he’ll leave behind a murky QB situation in Lexington.
Former star recruit Drew Barker will be a senior — and he earned the starting job going into last season — but he hasn’t impressed in what little playing time he’s seen this fall. None of the other three scholarship quarterbacks on UK’s roster — redshirt freshman Gunnar Hoak and true freshmen Danny Clark and Walker Wood — have ever thrown a pass in college.
Williams is still planning to enroll in January and go through spring practice, which would give him a head start on the 2018 season. Wiltfong praised his decision-making abilities and said he could compete for immediate playing time in a situation like UK’s.
“I think Jarren can walk in and have a chance to be the most talented guy right when he gets in there,” he said. “Then it would just be, how much of an opportunity would the staff give him? How quickly can he digest whatever they give him to learn, and then is that enough to play?
“But, certainly, Kentucky would be one of the more advantageous power-five schools to go in and compete right away as a true freshman quarterback.”
Williams hasn’t said much publicly about the current status of his recruitment, but his willingness to take multiple visits at this stage is telling. After committing to the Cats for the second time earlier this year, the expectation was UK would have nothing more to worry about in Williams’ recruitment.
That’s clearly no longer the case.
“He obviously likes Kentucky. He’s committed to Kentucky twice now,” Wiltfong said. “But he’s not married to them either.”