UK Football

Former Kentucky QB commitment wins Miami Hurricanes’ starting job

Quarterback Jarren Williams chose to officially visit the University of Miami the weekend of Nov. 11, 2017, when the Hurricanes crushed Notre Dame 41-8 in front of a frenzied crowd at Hard Rock Stadium.

“It was like, ‘Wow! I want to be a part of this!’ Williams said last August. “I want to win a national championship. And I think this is the place to do it.’’

Williams, the redshirt freshman and onetime Kentucky commitment who in December 2017 became Miami’s highest rated quarterback signee in 15 years, has been named the 2019 starting Hurricanes quarterback, UM announced Monday. He will face the Florida Gators in the Aug. 24 season opener at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

“All three guys showed tremendous improvement and development, which is a credit to their hard work and the work of Dan Enos and his offensive staff,” coach Manny Diaz told UM. “We believe we can win with all three guys, however, we feel like Jarren has the greatest upside due to his passing ability, his instincts and his determination.

“As we move into preparation for the Florida game we will continue the competition to determine who will serve as the backup quarterback.”

Said Williams: “It means the world. This is something that I’ve always strived for growing up. It’s been my dream since I was a kid. When I was six years old, I used to sit in front of the TV and watch Michael Vick play. That’s a dream I have always had and I’ve strived for it. Having the opportunity to lead this team is the opportunity of a lifetime and I am going to take full advantage of it.”

The 6-2, 210-pound signal caller whose frustration from a lack of playing time in 2018 almost caused him to transfer — despite a silky-smooth deep ball and credentials that included 3,015 passing yards with 28 touchdowns and only four interceptions as a senior at Central Gwinnett High in Lawrenceville, Georgia — is finally getting his shot.

Williams, 19, beat out redshirt sophomore and Ohio State transfer Tate Martell, the man whom many on the outside initially believed was the favorite for the starting job. He also beat out last year’s six-game starter N’Kosi Perry, a redshirt sophomore who played in 11 games, completing 97 of 191 passes (50.8 percent) for 1,091 yards and 13 touchdowns, with six interceptions.

“I feel like I’m an elite passer,” Williams told UM. “I can make all the throws, even in tight windows. What a lot of people don’t know is that I can extend plays with my feet. I’m not a slow guy. I can tuck the ball and get 15 yards. I can make a guy miss, but I am a pass-first guy. I stand in the pocket and trust the pocket and get the ball to my receivers.”

After much-maligned 2018 starter Malik Rosier graduated, the race between the three Hurricanes began in the offseason and continued through Saturday night’s second fall scrimmage, which the defense dominated.

“Obviously, Jarren is a gifted passer,’’ Diaz, who made the decision with offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Dan Enos, said last Friday. “He has learned I think the maturity that comes with being a starting quarterback at a place like Miami, and is becoming more and more comfortable with the offense. Jarren’s a guy that actually hit 20 miles an hour [running] this summer. “Jarren is a better athlete than people give him credit for — and for all the reasons why he was recruited to come here in the first place.’’

Williams has had his struggles at Miami. He was suspended for the Virginia Tech game in November for violating an unspecified team rule. He played sparingly in only one game last season, completing 1 of 3 passes for 17 yards, and running twice for 2 yards and a touchdown in a blowout of the FCS Savannah State Tigers. Despite a then-new NCAA rule that allows true freshmen to play in up to four games and still maintain their redshirt status, former coach Mark Richt never played him more than that short stint Sept. 8 against the Tigers. And when former starter Malik Rosier had a horrible Pinstripe Bowl game against Wisconsin, throwing three interceptions in 12 attempts, fellow former starter Perry, not Williams, was put into the game, despite multiple social media controversies throughout the season and his saying in an Instagram Live video that he was suspended.

When Perry also played poorly, Williams still didn’t get into the game.

“I never wanted to leave,’’ Williams said in late March, about three months after Diaz replaced Richt. “That’s never anything you want to do. I love my teammates to death. I love the coaches. I love the atmosphere. I love the fan base. I love it here.’’

It’s not known how Martell and Perry will ultimately react to the announcement, or if either will choose to transfer. It would seem more likely for Perry to leave, as Martell was granted a waiver by the NCAA to play this season after he already left the Buckeyes.

Williams is the least experienced of the three contenders, who spent the spring and summer competing for the starting job, although he is arguably the most talented passer. He arrived in Coral Gables as the No. 77 overall prospect in the composite rankings for the Class of 2018, making him the highest ranked quarterback to sign with Miami since Kyle Wright in the Class of 2003. He trimmed down, lost body fat and became much more fit and toned this offseason, drawing praise from Enos.

“He has changed his body. He looks really good [and] has gotten stronger,’’ Enos said in late July. “His upper-body mechanics are very good. He’s a very natural passer. A lot of his things we worked on were lower-body related. His drops, his balance and all those things right now are much improved.’’

Williams was a U.S. Army All-American in high school after his dominant final season at Central Gwinnett. In addition to his accurate passing, he added another 554 yards and 10 touchdowns on 115 carries with three fumbles lost. He picked the Hurricanes over offers that included Auburn, Alabama and Georgia after he decommitted from the Kentucky Wildcats.

Jarren is a savage,’’ redshirt freshman defensive end Gregory Rousseau, who is expected to get plenty of playing time this season, said last year. “He’s awesome.’’