University of Miami

Only 11 days later, Miami QB Jarren Williams — about to face UNC — feels like a new man

UM starting QB Jarren Williams explains what he learned from Florida game

University of Miami starting quarterback Jarren Williams (15) speaks to the media after morning practice at the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility in Coral Gables, Florida on Wednesday, September 4, 2019.
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University of Miami starting quarterback Jarren Williams (15) speaks to the media after morning practice at the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility in Coral Gables, Florida on Wednesday, September 4, 2019.

Jarren Williams has been through the so-called wringer since being named the University of Miami quarterback last month — being sacked 10 times in his first college start Aug. 24 against Florida, hearing about it publicly from his position coach and then vowing to come back stronger.

And on Wednesday, the first time the Hurricanes (0-1) and coach Manny Diaz spoke to the media in eight days, Williams appeared to be on the right path as he prepares to face North Carolina (1-0) at 8 p.m. Saturday in Chapel Hill.

“I’m very comfortable,’’ said Williams, a redshirt freshman who completed 19 of 29 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions, in UM’s opening-night loss against the Gators. “Just me wanting to get better — you can tell the team is real hungry, and everybody has been working really hard.”

How is Williams better now than he was 11 days ago against the Gators?

“Just my pocket presence — not watching the rush,’’ Williams said. “Every play you’ve got to keep your eyes down the field. And if you have to run you can run. But when you watch the rush you tend to just run out of the pocket, when you can step up and make the throw. I’ve been really making that point of emphasis this week, of not watching the rush, just keeping my eyes on my progressions and getting the ball down the field to my receivers.”

Williams said that “most of the time there’s always somebody open. You’ve just got to find him.’’ He noted that his pocket presence will improve with experience.

“I feel like I’m a natural passer,’’ Williams said, “but working at it every day, I’m getting better keeping my eyes down the field. ...That’s why I’ve been really trying to focus on each play, keeping my eyes down the field, going through my progressions, don’t be quick to run, get to my check down.”

Coach Manny Diaz told WQAM earlier Wednesday that his receivers played well against Florida and that “the first 12 plays of the game Jeff [Thomas] was open with a chance to be explosive and for one reason or another we couldn’t get the ball to him.’’

Graduate transfer wideout K.J. Osborn, one of the starters who played most of the UF game, said Wednesday that the UM receivers should be able to “make tough catches’’ for Williams to help him more. “Coach [Dan] Enos,’’ Osborn said of UM’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, “he’s gonna coach Jarren up to do what he does. Obviously we can come back and communicate with them. We can talk on the sideline with him about different coverages and things like that. But I mean the only thing we can do is keep running routes, keep getting open, communicating with him and and making tough catches.’’

Williams said he watched the North Carolina victory over South Carolina on TV.

“I watched the whole game — just really evaluated them. Coach gave us some things that we can look at and some things to be aware of. We’ve done a really good job of preparing for them this week. They’re a tough team. They fly to the ball.

“...The extra week is a huge help actually. We get to go through the game plan and then that next week we really solidify the game plan. We might cut some things out, we might add some things in. Everybody knows we’re on the same page.

“Getting that repetition is really good.”

Osborn said “all’’ of the Canes, not just Williams, learned from the loss.

“Every game you can learn from no matter if you’re a first-time starter or like myself a fifth-year senior,’’ Osborn said. “Obviously there were some things to learn from, like moving the pocket or whatever...But I thought he did well.”

Diaz confirmed to WQAM that quarterback/wide receiver Tate Martell will be used more as a receiver in the coming games. Martell was in on 15 offensive plays against the Gators.

“Yeah, Tate adds a lot of versatility to your offense...,’’ Diaz said. “We have some things that we can do with him. We can continue to build on that package… Yeah, I think a guy like that that has a unique skill set let’s just say... It’s a fun guy you can use in a lot of different, creative ways.’’

Osborn told reporters Wednesday that Martell “looks good.’’

“He’s starting to get those wide receiver pains, though, from running so much,’’ Osborn continued. “We try to tell people on the team it’s different at receiver. You run all day. He’ll be like, ‘My hamstring, my groin.’ ...It’s like, ‘Welcome to the room.’ But I think he has done well. He has learned more techniques....We accepted him.’’

Osborn said all the receivers, including younger ones such as freshman Jeremiah Payton and sophomore Dee Wiggins, are “upping our game so that more guys can get in.’’

Diaz, who noted there are no depth chart changes for the UNC game, said traveling to Chapel Hill in light of Hurricane Dorian “shouldn’t be an issue...I don’t see any effect on the game.’’

Diaz said UM had “a sort of situational game last Friday just to make sure our pre-snap issues that should be correctable coming out of Game 1 [are] fixed.’’

Transfer safety Bubba Bolden still has not been cleared by the NCAA to play.

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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.