Jarren Williams is leading coach Manny Diaz’s Miami squad into a season opener against rival Florida
CORAL GABLES – Brevin Jordan pulled out his I-phone and started filming the crowd around the Miami Hurricanes’ man of the moment. And if there were any doubt as to why Jarren Williams was in the spotlight Tuesday, Jordan made it clear.
"QB1, QB1," he shouted as he walked away.
Just 24 hours prior, coach Manny Diaz stood before the team and informed them Williams would be the Hurricanes’ new starting quarterback. The room erupted into applause and defensive lineman Jonathan Garvin of Lake Worth lifted the redshirt freshman over his shoulder and paraded around the locker room.
"That was a big moment, too," Williams said.
The Jarren Williams era has commenced and, as expected, everyone is on board. Teammates praised Williams for everything from his maturity to his leadership to his accuracy. Coaches cited his instincts.
Center Corey Gaynor: "Jarren is a general."
Receiver Jeff Thomas: "He throws the ball on stride. I think it was a good pick."
Tight end Jordan: "He’s taken a big step in being a leader, being accountable. He understands now what it means to be the starting quarterback for the University of Miami."
All of which is great when a player has endorsements from his teammates. But the only one that counted was if Diaz believed Williams was the man to take the first snap Aug. 24 against the Florida Gators in Orlando.
Diaz and offensive coordinator Dan Enos made that decision Sunday, when, Diaz said, they spoke for the first time about who should emerge between Williams, N’Kosi Perry and Ohio State transfer Tate Martell.
"What separates Jarren is Jarren has a little bit of an instinct," Diaz said. "Once you get past the arm talent, it’s just an instinct of knowing where to go with the ball and a feel for the game that I think is really different from the other two, and I thought that might’ve been the deciding factor."
Said Enos: "We feel like Jarren gives us the best chance to win."
Williams, who considered transferring a year ago when he was never given a chance by then coach Mark Richt, was confident he could win this job from the start of camp.
Then, following Saturday’s scrimmage, he was sure.
"I’m poised," the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Williams said. "The moment’s never too big for me. I’m going to lead the team and I’m going to make plays and I’m going to do everything the offense can do to put points on the board.
"I’m a very accurate passer, I got a good understanding of the offense and I showed that. I was able to move the ball consistently."
Diaz spoke to his three quarterbacks on Monday before meeting with the team. He told Williams: "We know you’re going to make mistakes, we don’t want you to be Superman, just try to eliminate the mental errors."
"My mindset was to make sure I go into each game prepared and knowing everything the defense is going to give us," Williams said.
Williams, who’s from Snellville, Georgia, appeared in one game last season, throwing three passes. He was one of the three Miami quarterbacks who missed at least one game because of a suspension. Williams did not make the trip to Virginia Tech for violating team rules. Reports then swirled that Williams was considering transferring.
The question of Williams’ maturity was raised Tuesday.
"I really started by just looking in the mirror and understanding now is the time you got to mature and grow up," said Williams, who shied away from questions about last year and how close he came to entering the transfer portal. "This is the real world. This is definitely a learning experience. I’m glad it happened because I feel I became a better man."
Diaz’s attention now turns to Williams’ backup. Neither Perry nor Martell, both redshirt sophomores, were available for comment Tuesday. Everyone expects both will remain with the program and Diaz said it is important to identify a backup before the season starts. Martell missed practice Monday after learning Williams won the job but was back on the field Tuesday.
"We told them right now that we felt it was too close to call for who the backup would be," Diaz said. "So, we want both of those guys to fight that out to find out."
Perry started six games during Richt’s revolving quarterback door a year ago. He completed 50.8 percent of his passes. Martell never has lived up to his billing as one of the top-rated quarterbacks coming out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. He left Ohio State after the Buckeyes brought in Georgia transfer Justin Fields.
"They were both very happy for me," Williams said. "There was no hate. We’re like brothers. They gave me a hug."
Diaz was asked if Martell and Perry will stick around. "I hope so," he said.
Jordan, a high school teammate of Martell’s, said both quarterbacks were "in good spirits" but added he was not sure of Martell’s plans.
"He was definitely a little hurt because he’s such a competitive guy," Jordan said of Martell. "Him not getting the spot it hurt him a little bit."