Barry Jackson

Here's why this Miami Hurricanes freshman quarterback is surprising people

UM quarterbacks Malik Rosier, N’Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams throw to tight ends during a practice this spring.
UM quarterbacks Malik Rosier, N’Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams throw to tight ends during a practice this spring.

Some Hurricanes notes on a Thursday:

The odds are against freshman Jarren Williams wresting the starting quarterback job from Malik Rosier before the Sept. 2 opener against LSU.

But this much is clear: UM officials knew Williams was good. And he’s even better than they thought.

“Jarren Williams is a guy that has come in, and quite frankly he’s a better passer than I thought he was,” coach Mark Richt told WQAM’s Joe Rose and Zach Krantz this week. “He’s throwing some dimes out there. He’s not quite sure who to throw it to half the time, but when he throws it at something, he tends to hit it.”

During the two scrimmages and the spring game, Williams completed 68 percent of his passes (17 for 25) for 224 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

By comparison, Rosier completed 57 percent (20 for 35, 296 yards, three touchdowns, one interception).

And N’Kosi Perry completed 52 percent (24 for 46, 253 yards, one touchdown, one interception).

The important caveat is that Williams often was playing against defensive backups, while Rosier was primarily playing against the No. 1 defense. Another important caveat: Williams has a lot of work to do in learning UM’s offense and learning college defenses.

But Williams has been impressive and he’s going to be given every chance to compete for the starting job and the backup job.

Richt reiterated on Rose’s WQAM show this week that if the season opened today, the starter “would be Malik. And it ought to be Malik. We’ll see if he can continue this summer and knock it out in camp.

“I’d love to say this guy’s No. 1, this guy’s a solid No. 2, and these other guys are battling for playing time or they may redshirt and all that kind of thing. We’re not there right now. I’d love to go through the whole summer and know 100 percent who the guy is. Really, Malik is the guy, and he’s got to act that way throughout the summer with the leadership role that the quarterbacks take in the summer, and he will. He did last summer. He’ll do it again.

“I have all the faith and confidence that we’re going to have a great summer with his leadership and the other guys can start growing up a little bit more and take more ownership of it.”

Richt said Rosier can “go from a bad play to a good play, and a good play to a great play. He threw the ball pretty well[ this spring]. It wasn’t unbelievable but no one’s perfect. … He really had a good spring.

“The other guys, the good news is, N’Kosi [Perry] is learning a lot more, getting better at what he’s doing. He’s a very talented passer and runner. Cade Weldon missed a couple of practices with an eye infection but when he came back, he put back-to-back practices together [and] practiced extremely well.”

Weldon was 9 for 12 for 113 yards in the final scrimmage.

With Kendrick Norton going in the seventh round to Carolina, that means three UM underclassmen who entered the past two drafts have gone in the sixth round or lower: Brad Kaaya (sixth), Norton (seventh) and Joe Yearby (undrafted).

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz re-tweeted over the weekend the fact that 37 of the record 106 early entrants in this year’s draft went undrafted and added this: “That’s 35%. The curse of youth is that you nod your head and say that sounds terrible, but I’ll be in the 65%. That’s what these 37 guys thought too. Be smart about where you get your advice from — not just what you want to hear. You can only jump once.”

Asked on 790 The Ticket about the decisions made by Norton and Richard McIntosh Jr. (who went in the fifth round to the Giants) and the issue of early entrants in general, Diaz said he spoke to both players this past weekend and said both are now NFL players, no matter where they were drafted.

“All we can do in that time frame is present the information,” Diaz told Jonathan Zaslow, Brett Romberg and Amber Wilson. “We’re never going to tell a kid to stay, never going to tell a kid to go. Certainly, most players would benefit from coming back. I told these guys, even after the draft, you’ve got to make your decision right. They’re intelligent young men, excellent people ... It’s up to them now to make their decision right.”

Zaslow asked Diaz who’s to blame for kids turning pro and then being drafted later than expected.

“It’s probably over-simplistic to say there’s one smoking gun,” Diaz said. “It’s easy to say these people are giving advice. There’s a mixture of things. One of the things is youth, the idea that you’re going to be the one to bust the odds.

“Only 30 some odd percent of the early entrants went in the first three rounds. Everyone talks about the kids [defensive front seven players, in particular] who stayed at Clemson, which is thoroughly remarkable, but they had two receivers come out early who both got picked in the sixth round. It’s a national phenomenon. Once they took all the money out of the rookie contracts, there’s an idea they have to get to the second contracts sooner.

“Getting to your second contract, you’re not going to get a second contract if you’re not a big time contributor in your first four years in the league. We are in not in a situation where we are ever going to tell a kid you shouldn’t go. If you are the fourth or fifth receiver or fourth or fifth defensive tackle on a team, it’s going to be hard to put up those numbers to get that big second deal.”

There’s growing confidence around the program.

Diaz on 790: “Everyone can see the monster is coming together. It’s not there yet. You can sense a different level of determination.”

Richt on WQAM: “If you come to Miami, you’d better come to compete and earn your playing time, because we’re going to have some boys that can ball out.”

Richt was looking at his depth chart and told Rose: “I’ve just got a big grin on my face … The numbers will be up for sure, and the skill level and the competition level’s going to be tremendous. I’m very excited about it. That’s what made Miami great in the past. A bunch of great players competing every day against each other. I think we’re going to have enough dudes to make plays and really compete well.”

Diaz told The Ticket that no decision has been made on any changes to the turnover chain, which will return but potentially with a new twist.

“We haven’t had our 2018 turnover chain summit yet,” Diaz cracked. “We have some ideas we’re kicking around to have an updated version. It’s still a work in progress, still cooking in the oven.”

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