Four long years waiting his turn, behind two other quarterbacks, Williams knew he would get his shot one day to start for his hometown Canes. His choice -- to sit and wait his turn -- is unique among quarterback transfers who, oftentimes, are looking for a quick fix.
Williams did no such thing. After starting as a true freshman at Memphis in 2010, he decided to leave the program because of a shift in offensive philosophy. He had his shot to start; he gave it up. When he looked around the country for a better fit, he thought Miami -- home of the pro-style offense, home of school legend Ken Dorsey, home of countless NFL draft picks. Williams, in fact, wears No. 11 because Dorsey did.
When he looked at the roster, Williams saw Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris. He would one day have a shot to compete for the starting job, yes, but he would have to sit out one season because of NCAA transfer rules and then work to unseat the heir apparent, Morris. Reflecting on that decision two weeks ago in Coral Gables, Fla., Williams said, "It was a challenge just going from being the starter and the person everyone looks up to on the field, to have to sit back again and be on the sideline and practice. Just seeing a whole different aspect of what college football is like helped me learn and mature faster."
Williams said his competition with Morris made him better. "I don't know if I would have gotten this good had I stayed [at Memphis] and been a four-year starter. To challenge myself every day against him really helped me."
Indeed, Miami coaches saw a different Williams this spring. They anticipated a heated competition to win the starting job Morris left behind, but Williams held the lead from the first day and continued to put distance between himself and redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen. He showed better accuracy and better decision-making and was working on his leadership. He also happens to be one of the more mature players on the team -- at 22, he is married and expecting his first child, a son, in August.
Coach Al Golden said this of Williams two weeks ago: "I just think he’s one of the few guys because of his intellect and because of his maturity. He’s married -- he’s got his house in order -- so this has been something he’s waited a long time. Ryan’s an excellent decision-maker. His arm strength is good. He’s going to get the job done."
Though Olsen had started to get a few more reps with the first team over the past few weeks in order to try and foster more of a competition, Golden conceded his young player still had a ways to go. That all changed during a scrimmage Friday night, when Williams suffered a noncontact injury to the ACL in his right knee.
It seems unlikely that Williams will be back for the opener, leaving an opportunity for Olsen -- the highly touted ESPN 150 prospect out of New Jersey, and brother of former Miami tight end Greg Olsen. Kevin Olsen had his share of maturity issues during his redshirt season in 2013 and was left home from the Russell Athletic Bowl last December.
Now, he has to grow up in a hurry.