University of Miami quarterback Ryan Williams had a special dinner Monday — something to keep his appetite under check and his outlook sunny until football practice Tuesday.
“I’m super excited,” said Williams’ wife, Deanna, 21, of the prospect of Williams starting Saturday night against No. 12 Florida State at Sun Life Stadium. “You don’t understand. I’m making tacos — double meat tonight, chicken and beef. I’m trying to have him in good spirits the whole week.”
Williams, 20, the only married player on the Miami roster, hopes to get the first start of his Miami career against the Seminoles (6-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) — that is, if regular starter Stephen Morris is unable to compete for the Canes (4-3, 3-1) because of a sprained left ankle he sustained Saturday against North Carolina.
Morris, busy getting treatment Monday, did not practice. And though coach Al Golden said Sunday that he would approach the week as if Williams was “the guy,” Morris had not been ruled out — at least publicly.
“I have no idea,” said Williams, a redshirt sophomore who wears No. 11 in honor of his favorite Cane, Ken Dorsey, and sat out last season after transferring from Memphis. “He seems to be doing all right. I don’t know how far his ankle is coming along.”
Golden said after the Hurricanes’ short, walk-through practice Monday that Williams is prepared to start.
“If his number is called, he’s ready to go,” Golden said. “He had good command [Monday], understood everything, ran the show. We didn’t do a lot, but I think he’s ready for the opportunity. I don’t really have an update on Stephen. It’s not all bad news. We just have got to hang in there and see how he goes.”
In case fans have forgotten, Morris also sprained his left ankle as a freshman, three days before the Sun Bowl in December of 2010. It seemed like a bad injury, but after Jacory Harris threw three interceptions in his first seven passes, Morris replaced Harris.
Morris’ numbers that day in UM’s 33-17 loss to Notre Dame: 22 of 33 for 282 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. He even rushed on the bad ankle four times for 22 yards.
“We can make a decision as the week goes by,” UM offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said, indicating practice is not the ultimate consideration. “Stephen has started for us a bunch of games.”
The 6-6, 223-pound Williams, whose family lives in Pembroke Pines, played for Miramar High his senior year after transferring from Plantation American Heritage. He led the Patriots to a state title in 2009, completing 18 of 21 passes for 254 yards and a state-record five touchdowns.
As a freshman at Memphis, Williams took over for quarterback Cannon Smith (a former Hurricane), who sustained a concussion in the second game of the season. Williams came off the bench and completed 18 of 25 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns against East Carolina. He started every game afterward but was sacked 30 times.
His numbers at Memphis: 165 of 290 for 2,075 yards and 13 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions. He is a pure drop-back quarterback and opted to transfer to UM after coach Larry Porter switched the Tigers’ offense back to the spread.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday that even without Morris, UM’s offensive “foundation is still going to be the same. Ones a little more mobile, one’s a little stronger. But they’re both very good quarterbacks.”
Williams, even-keeled and calm in his demeanor, said he doesn’t see this as a difficult situation. “No,” said Williams, who has completed 11 of his 15 passes this season for 87 yards and a touchdown. “We’ve got great coaches. I’m surrounded by a lot of talent.”
He blamed himself for the one sack Saturday, after he replaced Morris in the fourth quarter of UM’s 18-14 loss to UNC.
“Yeah, it was my fault. I should have hit the checkdown. I tried to scramble and get back forward to the line of scrimmage. I saw them cave in on me. I just wanted to get down and protect the ball. I should have thrown it away or hit that checkdown.”
He said he’s “really excited” for the FSU game, especially because of the national stage.
“The rivalry is definitely something that has been big, growing up as a UM fan,” he said. “It’s going to be great.”
His family, including Deanna — his high school sweetheart and a former soccer player at Jackson State in Mississippi — are eager to see what unfolds.
“When Ryan comes home he doesn’t like to discuss football much because he deals with it all day at school,” Deanna said. “But he knows what he has to do. We’re just trying to stay positive.”