Nothing like a Miami Hurricanes quarterback competition to get the pulse pumping.
And nothing like a fresh-faced newcomer to make that battle even spicier.
High school senior Jarren Williams, unlike freshman N’Kosi Perry this past season, will arrive in Coral Gables from Lawrenceville, Georgia, in January to enroll at the University of Miami and immediately dig into the playbook and compete in spring ball.
Perry, the heralded former prep star out of Ocala Vanguard, chose to arrive last summer, initially competing in fall camp instead of getting a jump in spring. He is being redshirted this season as he learns the offense and grows physically.
“It’s awesome,” UM quarterbacks coach Jon Richt said Wednesday, the first day of the inaugural three-day early signing period that reaped a spectacular signing class for the No. 10 Hurricanes (10-2), set to face No. 6 Wisconsin (12-1) on Dec. 30 in the Capital One Orange Bowl. “It’s tough when there’s one guy that is ‘the guy’ and he’s the only one that has a chance.
“Now, we’re getting some young pups who are champing at the bit and they’re ready to prove they’re the guy. That’s what is going to provide the spark, the energy, and make our jobs a little bit more interesting in the offseason.”
That one ‘guy’ might have been starter Malik Rosier had UM won the past two games at Pittsburgh on Nov. 24 and then against Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship on Dec. 2. But the Canes lost both, including a 38-3 beatdown at the hands of No. 1 Clemson.
Rosier helped neither himself nor his team in either loss, being erratic in both games and throwing two interceptions against Clemson. The seven combined sacks, obviously a team lapse, added to the misery.
“He has only been the guy for one year,” Jon Richt, the son of UM head coach Mark Richt, said of Rosier. “We already had a competition. And part of it was that N’Kosi and [fellow freshman] Cade [Weldon] and some of those young guys weren’t ready mentally yet. Now they’ve had a whole year in the system and they know they’re going to come out and compete this next spring and offseason — in the summer and fall camp. Malik is better when he competes.”
Also in this spring’s competition will be current redshirt sophomore backup Evan Shirreffs, who has struggled in his few chances (two of seven passes for 16 yards in four games) this season.
Rosier has completed 213 of 389 passes for 2,917 yards and 25 touchdowns, with 11 interceptions, but has also rushed for 427 yards and five touchdowns, putting some wear and tear on his strong, but likely sore, 6-1, 216-pound frame.
Upbeat as usual on Wednesday, the redshirt junior said he welcomed the open quarterback competition.
“If you talk to any of the greats, they always talk about competing,” Rosier said. “That’s what makes them great. I don’t want to come here and not compete.”
Jon Richt acknowledged that Rosier “has taken a little bit of a beating this year because he does run the ball. He is a physical runner. He’s not 100-percent [healthy] every game that he’s out there.
“But at the same time, yeah, he’s missed some opportunities and he knows it. He hasn’t necessarily stepped up and just completely taken over and won every game. A lot of these games he’s played well at the end and he’s done things to help us win, but he might not even have graded out as a winner. So, he knows that and he knows there’s a lot of room to improve. And he can, and has the ability to improve.”
Jon Richt called 6-2, 206-pound U.S. Army All-American Williams, rated the nation’s No. 7 dual-threat quarterback by 247Sports.com and the 12th best by Rivals.com, a “big kid, an athletic guy, a smart kid” who he believes “can come in and lead a team with his personality.”
Williams completed 214 of 348 passes for 3,015 yards, 28 touchdowns and only four interceptions in 10 games this past season. He rushed for another 554 yards and 10 touchdowns on 115 carries for a 4.8-yards-per-carry average.
“He has all the attributes of a quarterback that you’d ever want,” John Richt said. “Physically, he can run. He’s good side to side. He can step up and move in the pocket. He can extend plays if he needs to. Our run game with the quarterback he’d be able to do with no problem. … And he’s done a great job of standing in the pocket and ripping it. … He has a great arm.
“… Malik is more of a straight-ahead, fast guy who is a little bit thicker and might be able to take some shots. Jarren probably has a little bit more side-to-side elusiveness. N’Kosi is that kind of guy, too.”
Perry, who is said to be a substantial talent, is about 6-3 and still “skinny,” Jon Richt said. “That’s who he is.”
Mark Richt said Williams is a player with “growth potential.”
“He’ll probably be a 215-pounder, would be my guess, before he’s done. He moves well. He throws it well. He’s a very strong student of the game. We think he’s a mature kid.”
Williams chose Miami over Ohio State, Auburn and Alabama, among more than two dozen offers, and has been outwardly excited about joining his new team. He said he was hooked on UM after attending the Notre Dame game Nov. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium, where Miami rolled to a 41-8 upset victory.
“I loved the atmosphere,’’ Williams told gwinnettprepsports.com. “I liked the school, too. … Also, just the guys and the coaches. They’re really great people, and great coaches. … I really like Coach Richt’s offense. I felt like it was a great fit for me. I think I’ll be able to reach my full potential there.”