‘The moment is never too big for me,’ Jarren Williams said.
Each of the six future Miami Hurricane skill players to suit up for Savage Pro at The Opening finals in 2017 knew what to expect from one of their quarterbacks. Trevor Lawrence was considered one of the best quarterback prospects of all time, a consensus five-star player and no-doubt future star for the Clemson Tigers.
Lorenzo Lingard, Cam’Ron Harris, Mark Pope, Brian Hightower, Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory didn’t know as much about the other quarterback on the roster: Jarren Williams, a four-star prospect committed to the Kentucky Wildcats.”
“I didn’t really know a whole lot about him,” Mallory said Tuesday
“I was like, Who’s this guy?” Jordan said Tuesday. “Kentucky?”
The six Miami-committed prospects only needed to see one play by the quarterback to have faith in Williams. On the first play of Savage Pro’s first game, Jordan ran a seam route through the middle of the opponent’s defense and Williams fired the star tight end a perfectly placed pass.
Jordan pulled in the catch with plenty of room to run. He darted to the end zone for one of the first touchdowns in Beaverton, Oregon.
“It was very exciting,” Harris said Tuesday. “You were like, ‘Man, this could happen. This might be it.’ ”
It seemed unlikely at the time, but the 7-on-7 tournament at the Nike World Headquarters wound up being a preview of the potential future of the Hurricanes’ offense. Williams eventually decommitted from the Wildcats in the fall and then committed to Miami a little while later.
On Aug. 24, Williams will make his first college start when the Hurricanes open the 2019 season against the Florida Gators in Orlando, and Harris, Lingard, Hightower, Pope, Jordan and Mallory will all potentially line up around him, just like they did more than two years ago.
“It was a fun experience. We all was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ ” Hightower said Tuesday. “We all were like, ‘We need to get him, this kid from The Opening that we played with.’ Now this is where we’re at.”
Harris remembered a particularly strong connection between Hightower and Williams, with the quarterback taking advantage of the wide receiver’s length in jump-ball situations. Lingard remembered one comeback Williams orchestrated and some of Williams’ savvy moving around the pocket.
The one throw the running back thinks of came in a goal-line situation. Williams rolled to his left after the snap, and Lingard turned around and followed the quarterback’s lead. Lingard slid to the left, too, and Williams zipped a sidearm throw through a window for a touchdown. The play was ruled a sack, but it was just one example of the arm talent which blew away Lingard.
“I was like, ‘Man, this guy’s got a good arm,’ ” Lingard said Tuesday. “We were all talking about playing with each other.”
Said Harris: “All the hype was on Trevor because he was a five-star, big-time recruit and great quarterback, and when Jarren got in, he met his progression.
The Williams-led comeback is still the first thing Lingard thinks about from The Opening, though. Although he can’t remember the team the victory came against, Lingard remembers the circumstances: Lawrence threw a couple of picks as Savage Pro fell behind early. Quarterbacks often rotate in 7-on-7 tournaments, so Williams came in and orchestrated a come-from-behind victory.
Williams started instead of Lawrence at times in Oregon and, according to 247Sports.com, he finished the three-day tournament with a better completion percentage than the Clemson star, fewer interceptions and more touchdown drives led.
“I’m not trying to sound biased or nothing, but Jarren put on a better show than Trevor,” Jordan said, “so that’s when we knew he was elite.”
After the tournament finished, Jordan kept in touch with Williams. Those two and Hightower, a California native, weren’t as close with the rest of the Florida-based Hurricane commits, at the time, so they all spent the bulk of their time with each other in Beaverton. Even now in Coral Gables, Jordan said the group he spends most of his time with includes Williams, Hightower and Mallory.
It was an easy choice, then, for Jordan when quarterback Artur Sitkowski flipped his commitment from Miami to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and former coach Mark Richt asked the receiver who he thought the Hurricanes should reach out to.
“They were like, ‘Who’s somebody? We need a quarterback for this class,’ ” Jordan said. “I said, ‘Jarren Williams.’ That was the first guy I said: ‘Jarren Williams,’ and we got him.”
Williams was still committed to Kentucky when he came down to South Florida for his official visit in 2017. He watched the Hurricanes pummel the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Miami Gardens for the signature win of Richt’s tenure, and Williams sat beside him the entire game at Hard Rock Stadium.
At the end of the visit, Williams told Richt he was planning to sign with the Hurricanes.
“Being around those guys, just seeing the level of talent that I could have around me, throwing to, I’m like, ‘Man,’ ” Williams said Tuesday. “We all kind of clicked. We all have that personality where we just kind of meshed. It was really great getting to know and I’m like, I want to play with these guys, and I saw something in them that was big time.”