Throughout most of fall camp, Dan Enos and Manny Diaz were about the only two people in Coral Gables who didn’t want to talk about the quarterback competition — at least not with each other.
Both knew how important the decision would be to their first season in the current roles with the Miami Hurricanes. Diaz was picking a face of the program and quarterback to lead his first season as coach.
Enos needed to find the player who could best orchestrate his system in his first season as Miami’s offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. They did not, however, want to let the other’s thought process influence their own.
They finally came together after the Hurricanes’ second scrimmage Saturday to make a final decision. They came away in agreement: Jarren Williams would be their starting quarterback.
“Coach and I didn’t talk about it much during the process because Coach didn’t want to sway what I thought — he wanted to hear what I really thought — and he didn’t want me to tell him because he wanted to make up his own mind,” Enos said, “but ultimately when we talked we were exactly on the same page.”
Two days later, Miami announced Williams as the starting quarterback for Aug. 24 when the Hurricanes open the season against the Florida Gators in Orlando.
The airtight competition took more than seven months to be settled, and Williams ultimately separated himself from fellow quarterbacks N’Kosi Perry and Tate Martell in the final week leading into the Saturday scrimmage. Although Perry started six games last season and Martell arrived in South Florida in January as one of the most high-profile transfers in the country, Williams was the most consistent passer throughout August. He seized the starting job by being the most consistently accurate and acquitting himself best in game-type situations.
“I think the last four or five days we were kind of getting a feeling of he was just being very consistent. He was having some moments at practice where you like, Who was that? Oh, that was Jarren,” Enos said. “A few of those where you’re like, OK. And then you go back and watch the tape, and you’re seeing some little subtle things — where his eyes were, how he bought a tick or two in the pocket moving away from a pass rush and still got the ball out to a guy accurately, some of these plays that in real-life football that they have to do and you started to see some signs of those things.”
Williams began his charge into the competition starting with the Hurricanes’ second scrimmage of spring practice. The redshirt freshman had the least experience of the three quarterbacks vying for the starting job and he struggled in the first scrimmage of the spring, which was closed to the public.
From the first scrimmage to the second, Williams took the largest leap of any of the quarterbacks, Enos said. For the first time, Williams looked like a quarterback who could potentially start for the 2019 season.
Williams, who signed with Miami as the No. 77 overall prospect in the 247Sports.com composite rankings for the Class of 2018, always had the tools. With a little bit of experience in game action, Williams started to put his entire suite of skills to use.
“I was kind of like, Whoa. This guy made some — again — quick, instinctive, tight-window throws,” Enos said, “and he’s just continued to get better.”
Enos described Williams a gifted “passer” rather than a “thrower.” Williams’ arm talent doesn’t just lie in his strength or his accuracy, but his ability to make a variety of throws. When he needs to put air beneath a ball, Williams can. When he needs to rifle a pass into a tight window, Williams can.
“Just the ability to throw the football in different levels, different areas on the field — touch, deep ball, screens, different things,” Enos said. “The other guys all did a tremendous job as well, but Jarren just kind of kept coming up — his name, what he was doing and then I thought he did a nice job in the scrimmage.”
The scrimmage, Enos said, was the exclamation point for Williams in the quarterback competition. Miami’s entire offense struggled in the first half and Williams regrouped best in the second half. At one point, the 6-2, 210-pound freshman staged a 16-play drive, converting multiple third downs, Enos said. The Hurricanes graded all their quarterbacks on decision-making for the scrimmage and Williams topped the field at 88 percent, Diaz said.
By the time Miami was finished, so was the quarterback battle.
“The two big things were the ability to be an accurate passer consistently and the ability to move the team better in some of our team situations,” Enos said. “All three of them performed very well at different times, but I think Jarren was probably the most consistent in those areas.”