University of Miami

Buckle up, Canes fans. The Miami Hurricanes’ starting QB race just got steaming hot

UM quarterback Jarren Williams ‘more comfortable’ with being on offense

Miami Hurricanes quarterback Jarren Williams (15) speaks to the media after practice at the University of Miami Greentree Practice Field in Coral Gables on Monday, July 29, 2019.
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Miami Hurricanes quarterback Jarren Williams (15) speaks to the media after practice at the University of Miami Greentree Practice Field in Coral Gables on Monday, July 29, 2019.

It’s about to get steaming hot at Greentree Field.

University of Miami football coach Manny Diaz made it absolutely clear Monday morning in a radio interview that this week “the pressure really, really turns up” for the three Hurricanes quarterbacks vying for the starting job.

Diaz went on 560 WQAM with Joe Rose and Zach Krantz to discuss Sunday night’s scrimmage, and without giving any details about any of the young men competing for the job — redshirt sophomore N’Kosi Perry, redshirt freshman Jarren Williams and redshirt sophomore Tate Martell — he spoke about what he saw and what he expects.

There were at least two picks in this scrimmage, as Diaz said sophomore Gurvan Hall had “a night last night,’’ with two interceptions. He said one was on a tipped ball and “the other just came out of center field ... and he made the whole field look like it was a small patch of grass.’’

Keep in mind that the worst thing a starting quarterback could do in a Manny Diaz offense is “burn down the house’’ with critical errors. He did not say who threw the interceptions.

Here is what Diaz said Monday about the quarterback situation, which is expected to be resolved after next Sunday’s second scrimmage:

“All three guys either threw for a touchdown or ran for a touchdown, which was good. We’re right in the mix. Now it’s like, are we going to flirt with something good or do we have a chance to be something better than that? We obviously know where we were is not very good and we’ve improved from that.

“Is it just OK to be good or is there something beyond, because the guys are all good. We can play.

“Can we be maybe great? I think that’s what this week is all about.’’

Rose asked an obvious, but great question: ‘Are you worried that next week at this time you could be going, ‘Damn, now we’ve got to be making a decision and everybody is still really close. Nobody is separating himself from the other two.’ What do you do?’’

“I don’t see that,’’ Diaz responded. “That’s what I enjoy about the next six days because this is it, this is the week of all weeks. And now the pressure really, really turns up… It’s the best thing we can do to try to create that sense of urgency without inviting another university to come play us.

“Of all the weeks, they’ve been told, this is the most important week of their 2019, right now.”

Then, later in the interview, Rose asked, “Are you looking for a 9-for-11 [starter] next week [or] some guy that screams and yells and looks like he’s a leader of the team? Talk about some of the things you’re looking for for one guy to jump out in the next week and take the job.”

Diaz’s response: “No. 1, who can avoid the critical errors because that guy touches the ball every play, so that guy has the greatest chance to your team a game just by making some crazy thing happen.

“Then it comes down to decision-making, because the great thing in this offense is there’s going to be an outlet for the quarterback. So, do you understand what we have called, can you see what the defense is doing and understand where the ball should go — because there’s always somewhere that the ball should go.

“And then finally do you have the accuracy to get it there.

“So, it’s 1, avoid the critical errors, and then 2., make the decision. And then have the accuracy to get the ball there, because we’ve got guys. We don’t need the guy to wear a cape. Just let the ball go to the guy that’s available.

“Now, the fourth X-factor to that is can you, when given the opportunity, if needed, make something special happen. [That] means, yes, that the protection broke down and all of a sudden you’ve got to create something with your legs, or just, whatever it is, something where all of a sudden they did a little bit of an extraordinary effort type play.

“That factors in, but a guy that can do that but is not as consistent in terms of decision-making and accuracy or has also the tendency to burn the house down, that doesn’t compensate.”

So, No. 1, like any good football team, the way you win is to make yourself really, really really hard to beat. Right? So, let’s be hard to beat. And then once we’re hard to beat, now the fact that we’ve figured out a special something, then you add that on and that makes you special.”

More news from Diaz:

Defensive tackle Nesta Silvera, who UM reported last week had injured his foot and would undergo surgery, will “hopefully’’ be back in six to eight weeks. Diaz sounded optimistic that Silvera, a sophomore, should be back at some point this season.

When asked if the Canes made it out of the scrimmage healthy, Diaz did not give a resounding ‘Yes.’ He said, “Not bad for a scrimmage. There will be a couple guys we’ll check [later Monday]...For the most part we had a good night.’’

The coach said his three senior linebackers (Shaq Quarterman, Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud) are the team’s strength.

The Hurricanes, who finished 7-6 last season, begin 2019 on Aug. 24 against the Florida Gators at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. They have off from practice Monday and resume practicing Tuesday morning.

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Miami Herald sports writer Susan Miller Degnan has been the Miami Hurricanes football beat writer since 2000, the season before the Canes won it all. She has won several APSE national writing awards and has covered everything from Canes baseball to the College Football Playoff to major marathons to the Olympics.
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