Miami has not had a great quarterback since Ken Dorsey graduated in 2002. While Miami has had some good college quarterbacks since Dorsey left, including Brock Berlin, Jacory Harris ( early 2009, and most of 2011), Stephen Morris, and Brad Kaaya, they failed to meet QBU’s lofty standard: Stephen Morris and Brad Kaaya failed to progress to an elite level, while Jacory Harris and Kyle Wright regressed at Miami.
Jarren Williams looks altogether different than his predecessors—even Ken Dorsey—and has the potential to become a truly special player for the Miami Hurricanes.
Jarren Williams Has Shown Moxie and Poise
Against Pitt, Jarren Williams displayed the moxie of Brock Berlin or a young Jacory Harris, as he led a comeback on the road that has reversed the course of Miami’s season.
His scramble and subsequent strike to KJ Osborn for the go-ahead touchdown, were as clutch as N’Kosi Perry’s touchdown scramble that secured victory over UVA.
It is noteworthy that Williams, as well as Perry, have been able to make plays this year that have won games for Miami.
Against FSU, Williams delivered a perfect deep strike to Dee Wiggins that resulted in a 56-yard, game-clinching touchdown for Miami. Brad Kaaya, for all his virtues, could never make the play that would win the game for Miami. It is a great sign of hope, that Williams has shown he has the clutch gene in his body. Being clutch is simply not something that can be taught.
Good Arm Talent and Field Vision, With Great Decision Making Is a Deadly Combination!
One of the reasons Jacory Harris was lauded as the next great Miami quarterback early in the 2009 season, was his exceptional accuracy and touch, which resulted in the ability to fit passes into tight windows. Later in his career, as his confidence eroded and defenses began to pressure him more and more, he began to throw the ball up for grabs with increasing frequency.
Jarren Williams, who is completing just over 67% of his passes, displays similar—or even superior touch and accuracy to Jacory Harris, who made some throws in the 2009 FSU game that made the announcer’s jaw drop.
Like Harris, Williams throws a catchable ball and is able to drop the ball in with touch when necessary—something N’Kosi Perry struggles with.
What is even more impressive, is Williams—with the exception of one half of football against VT where he threw three interceptions while injured—has not thrown a single interception this season. It is astounding that since returning from injury, Williams is pushing the ball down the field into sometimes tight windows and making good decisions at the same time, with high-percentage throws where only his receiver is in position to make the play.
Despite being as immobile as a banyan tree, Brad Kaaya possessed the ability to push the ball down the field with good accuracy, while simultaneously making good decisions. Brad Kaaya did throw 24 interceptions during the course of his career—compared to 69 touchdowns—but it is still agreed among Miami fans and commentators, he generally made good decisions and had proficient field vision. To be a gunslinger, a quarterback will have to pull the trigger, which inevitably leads to interceptions.
To this point in his career, Jarren Williams has demonstrated a savvy beyond even that of Brad Kaaya, in taking calculated risks, only putting the ball into the air when his guy has a decided advantage. In recent weeks, Jarren Williams has put all objections about his arm strength to bed as he has delivered deep ball after deep ball with precision. Unlike 2017-18, Miami’s receivers have not had to break stride in 2019 (when Jarren Williams has been healthy) to catch passes, leading to many more yards after the catch, which have resulted in touchdowns. Perhaps Dan Enos has not received enough credit for the development of Williams.
Jarren Williams Has Good Mobility, But Is a Passer First and Foremost
Brad Kaaya was Miami’s best qb since Dorsey, but had two glaring deficiencies: immobility and the inability to step up in the clutch. Jarren Williams has neither of those deficiencies. While not a dual-threat quarterback by any stretch of the imagination, Jarren Williams has shown the ability to scramble to pick up a first down or extend a play to buy time to either throw the ball away or find an open receiver. Jacory Harris, Stephen Morris, and Malik Rosier all had this ability too, but Williams has the greatest amalgamation of attributes and intangibles of any Miami qb since 2000, including Ken Dorsey.
It is one thing to be able to scramble, it is quite another to be able to scramble in addition to being an intelligent and prolific passer.
So far this season, Jarren Williams is in the top ten in total QBR, with a rating of 164.8 which is elite and less than three points off of Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, who has a total QBR of 167.6. When adjusted for Miami’s poor competition this season, Williams’s QBR falls substantially, but I would rebut this is irrelevant as Williams has played the best games of his young career in consecutive weeks in three of Miami’s five toughest games of the season at Pitt, at FSU, and against a resurgent Louisville team in the rain (which makes accurate passing far more difficult).
As We Have Learned, Early Promise Is Not Always Realized at Miami
For a multitude of reasons including injury, lack of proper coaching, and off-field/character issues, many Miami players have stagnated and/or regressed during the past 15 years. The lack of player development has afflicted every position group at Miami and the list of players that this has happened to is staggering:
- Ryan Moore
- Lance Leggett
- Kyle Wright
- Willie Williams
- Anthony Reddick
- Sam Shields
- Jacory Harris
- Aldarius Johnson
- Marcus Forston
- Ray Ray Armstrong
- Seantrel Henderson
- Anthony Chickillo
- Eddie Johnson
And to a lesser degree, guys like:
- Stacey Coley
- Brad Kaaya
- Tyriq McCord
- Lawrence Cager
As for the quarterback position since Dorsey left, Brock Berlin was forced to play in a system to which his skillset was not suited. When Miami spread the field and put Berlin in the gun, he flourished. The same seems to be true with Jarren Williams and Dan Enos must take note, as five of Williams’s six touchdowns against Louisville came out of the shotgun.
In the case of Jacory Harris, it is true he had too many offensive coordinators and lacked the arm strength necessary to throw the deep ball with consistency, but his play spiraled downward after a barrage of negativity from the fanbase and media, which resulted in a complete loss of his confidence. The negativity stemmed from losses Miami suffered because of Jacory’s interceptions and resulted in Randy Shannon’s infamous social media ban. By the 2010 Sun Bowl against Notre Dame, Jacory Harris could not throw a single pass without being intercepted.
In 2011, Jedd Fish did help Harris return to form somewhat, but he was never the same gunslinger Miami fans saw in 2008 and early 2009.
Stephen Morris, the successor to Jacory Harris, had a good college career, but struggled at times with accuracy. When he was on, he was deadly.
When he was off, Miami got blown out as in the 2013 Russel Athletic Bowl against Louisville.
Brad Kaaya, probably Miami’s best qb since Ken Dorsey, had a good career at Miami but never became a superstar. Despite being extremely limited athletically, it seemed Kaaya and then offensive coordinator, Mark Richt, were just hitting stride in 2016 when Kaaya abruptly declared for the NFL draft, an incredibly poor decision which jettisoned Kaaya into football obscurity.
Miami Must Reverse Its Regressive Trend
If Miami is to return to prominence in 2020 and beyond, Manny Diaz, Dan Enos, and Jarren Williams will have to buck this trend. In modern college football as never before, a team is only as good as its quarterback—just ask Clemson, LSU, and Alabama. I am optimistic going forward, as Enos has a proven track record with continued quarterback development, while Diaz has demonstrated a propensity for player development on the defensive side of the ball, which I hope will translate to offense now that he is head coach.
Still, the question remains: can Jarren Williams become the superstar quarterback Miami has been missing for almost two decades?