Three games remain for the Miami Hurricanes this season and junior quarterback Ryan Williams needs some meaningful minutes before time runs out.
That's not an indictment of starter Stephen Morris nor should that statement ignite a quarterback controversy. It's simply time for Al Golden and his staff to begin thinking about next season as this one grids to a close.
Miami's goal was a Coastal Division crown and a spot in this year's ACC Championship Game. That dream died last Saturday in Durham when the Blue Devils topped the Canes 48-30, handing Miami its third conference loss of the season.
Virginia, Pittsburgh and a bowl game remain.
At best, Miami can finish 10-3, while 7-5 exists as a worst-case scenario. However the rest of 2013 plays out, season goals went unmet, which in turn must change the overall agenda of the final three games.
The Hurricanes' senior class absolutely deserves its final hurrah. Players like Morris, wide receiver Allen Hurns, defensive end Shayon Green, offensive lineman Jared Wheeler and a handful more have been to hell and back in the past four years.
Coaching changes, an NCAA investigation, depth issues, self-imposed postseason bans—it's been anything but great to be a Miami Hurricane.
With three games left on the docket, the seniors deserve to get theirs, but there's enough playing time to spread around. The final month of this derailed season must also effectively be an audition for 2014—especially at the quarterback position.
Once having proudly boasted the moniker "Quarterback U," it's been a decade-long drought for Miami under center.
Kyle Wright, Jacory Harris and even Morris have fallen short of expectations. Six different offensive coordinators over an 11-year span didn't help the maligned signal-callers, but truth be told, all three lacked that "it factor" past Hurricanes greats possessed.
Moving forward, Miami can ill afford another setback at quarterback and, for the first time in forever, will have multiple options to choose from.
Age and experience have Williams second on the depth chart this season, though the junior has seen little big-time action since transferring to Miami from Memphis in 2011.
Williams had one legitimate shot at glory last season, but couldn't put together a game-winning drive in a loss against North Carolina after Morris went down injured. Since then, he's seen mop-up duty against the likes of Florida Atlantic, Savannah State and two cracks at South Florida.
Williams hasn't taken a snap since late September, when he went 8-of-14 for 153 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Bulls.
Behind Williams, Miami has redshirt freshman Gray Crow and true freshman Kevin Olsen, a 4-star product out of New Jersey who redshirted this season. Next February, 4-star Brad Kaaya rolls in from California, while 3-star Malik Rosier of Alabama will also join the Hurricanes barring any changes between now and national signing day.
With Morris departing, Miami will be at a crossroads next spring regarding which direction to take the offense in.
Turn the keys over to a one-year option in Williams or go young, invest in the long term and accept that there will be growing pains with Olsen, Kayaa, Rosier or even the unheralded Crow?
If Williams is going to separate himself from the younger incoming talent, that process must start with real game action over the coming weeks. Practice-field battles cannot gauge ability the way real-time, pressure-filled moments on Saturdays in fall do.
As if Golden doesn't have enough on his plate with his team's defensive woes and late-season skid, the third-year Hurricanes head coach must now think about next year's offense. It's hardly ideal, but ultimately necessary for Miami's long-term success.
If "The U" is going to make the short-term investment in Williams, the senior-to-be must leave no doubt and prove that he's the best option.
That only happens with some quality reps for No. 11 between now and year's end.
Recruit star ratings courtesy of 247Sports.com.
Follow Chris Bello on Twitter @allCanesBlog.