University of Miami

‘This is his team’: Jarren Williams takes control for Miami ahead of high-profile opener

“I’m going to work and give everything I got for them.” Jarren Williams said.

Miami Hurricanes quarterback Jarren Williams (15) talks to the media after practice at the University of Miami Greentree Practice Field in Coral Gables on Wednesday, August 21, 2019.
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Miami Hurricanes quarterback Jarren Williams (15) talks to the media after practice at the University of Miami Greentree Practice Field in Coral Gables on Wednesday, August 21, 2019.

There was a segment of the Miami Hurricanes roster which had a feeling about what exactly Jarren Williams would be like as a starting quarterback. The group of players — now redshirt freshmen and sophomores — who joined the Hurricanes at the same time as the quarterback watched Williams arrive in Coral Gables bubbling with confidence, have his confidence stripped in a frustrating freshman year, and then build it back up through the winter and spring.

Last week, Williams was rewarded for his offseason and preseason work. When Miami opens the 2019 season with one of its most high-profile games in years, Williams will be the starting quarterback. In less than two weeks, Williams had to establish himself as the leader of the offense. The Hurricanes say he has.

“He’s not quiet. He’s controlling, like it’s his team,” wide receiver K.J. Osborn said Tuesday. “This is his team.”

For the past two weeks, Williams’ phone has been flooded with messages from friends, family and former Miami quarterbacks such as Malik Rosier, Brad Kaaya and Stephen Morris. They have congratulated him, praised him and, in the case of the latter, given him advice about how to be a starting quarterback for the Hurricanes. It’s all advice he could use ahead of Saturday, when Miami travels to Orlando to kick off the season against the No. 8 Florida Gators. If the Hurricanes are going to spring an upset, they need Williams to limit mistakes and be in control of the offense.

The biggest piece of advice those former Hurricanes have given him in a group chat they all have together: Just be himself.

“The team is very confident in Jarren,” coach Manny Diaz said. “All the reasons why we picked him, he still shows all those attributes.”

Williams’ work throughout fall camp was most consistent. Williams’ ability to make all the throws necessary is apparent, and Dan Enos said the redshirt freshman made those throws more consistently than N’Kosi Perry and Tate Martell. The offensive coordinator also said Enos was best operating in game-type situations, leading extended drives in scrimmages and exhibiting the best decision-making.

Williams’ work really began in the winter. After he nearly put his name in the transfer portal, Williams committed to competing for the starting job in 2019.

When the team regrouped in January after winter break, Diaz was in place as coach and Williams had the fresh start he needed. He dropped his bad weight and replaced it with muscle. He made sure everyone took notice of his work ethic.

“I feel like the whole mind-set just started to change for everybody,” Williams said. “My mind-set was I’m going to come in here and I’m going to work. I’m going to work and I’m going to compete every day.”

Although Perry started six games in 2018 and Martell arrived in January as one of the most sought-after transfers in the country, Williams plugged away in the competition. By the end of the Hurricanes’ second scrimmage in the spring, it was clear to Enos that Williams was a realistic option to start at Camping World Stadium.

Now Perry and Martell are competing to be Williams’ backup, and Martell even finished practice Wednesday wearing a white offense practice jersey, meeting with the wide receivers.

“I’ve been next to him the whole time while he’s been working, so I’ve seen exactly what he’s put in, the dedication that he has, the heart that he has and the passion for this,” said tight end Will Mallory, who is one of Williams’ closest friends on the team. “I think he’s more than ready.”

Williams will spend the entire season answering questions, and one of the most pressing will almost inevitably emerge at some point Saturday: How will Williams respond when adversity first strikes?

Enos said Monday there’s no way to truly prepare for adversity, and Williams knows handling it is different in a game than it is in practice. The most important thing to have when adversity hits, though, is trust. Offensive teammates have to believe the quarterback can guide them through whatever challenges emerge.

Williams believes he has earned it.

“It’s a gradual process because throughout the summer, the spring, my thing was I’m going to show these guys that I’m going to work and give everything I got for them, so I go out there every day and I really give everything I had into the team for them, just to show them that I’m going to be a guy that y’all can rely on,” Williams said. “I feel like doing that time after time gradually built that leadership, so that when I had the opportunity to be named the starting quarterback I was already kind of in that leadership role. So it has just kind of carried on.”