The Hurricanes got their biggest news of the offseason Saturday evening when former Washington State quarterback Cam Ward announced he would enroll at UM instead of entering the NFL draft.
Ward spent the last two seasons with the Cougars after two seasons at FCS school Incarnate Ward. In his two seasons at Washington State, he grew into one of the PAC-12’s top quarterbacks (in a conference that included former Heisman winner Caleb Williams, Heisman runner-up Michael Penix Jr. and Heisman third-place finisher Bo Nix).
Ward has one year of college eligibility left and will seek to prove he is a top-tier quarterback, telling The Athletic he believes he is worthy of a Day-1 pick in the NFL draft in 2025.
His arrival gives the Hurricanes a big-time weapon at quarterback. Here is a look at what he brings to Coral Gables.
Ward demonstrates his strengths all over his stat lines. Last year, he threw for 3,735 yards and 25 touchdowns with seven interceptions and a 66.6 completion percentage. Ward was fourth nationally in yards per game, 21st nationally in completion percentage and eighth nationally in total passing yards.
In his two seasons at Washington State, Ward notched 6,966 passing yards with 48 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
Ward had the 32nd-best passing grade among quarterbacks with 250 or more drop-backs last year, according to Pro Football Focus. He tied for 14th (along with former UM quarterback Tyler Van Dyke and others) in “big-time throws.”
The veteran quarterback does well when pushing the ball down the field. He had the No. 22 passing grade (92.7) on passes of 20 or more yards, completing 23 of 57 passes for 725 yards. His adjusted completion percentage was 45.6 percent, and he had 10 touchdowns with two interceptions.
Ward ranked 14th nationally with a 91.7 grade on intermediate-length throws (10-19 yards), throwing six touchdowns with five interceptions. His adjusted completion percentage at that passing depth was 71.4, which is tied for 13th nationally, and his seven big-time throws at that depth led the nation.
Ward is familiar with the Air Raid-style passing attack UM offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson runs, having played in Air Raid-style offenses at Incarnate Word and Washington State, so he should acclimate to the Miami offense fairly quickly.
Ward is also a capable runner. He had 384 rushing yards last year (not including lost yards for sacks), according to Pro Football Focus, and he notched eight rushing touchdowns. He had 274 rushing yards on scrambles and 110 yards on designed runs.
At Washington State, Ward saved some of his best performances for big games. His three best games against Power 5 competition last year, according to Pro Football Focus’ offensive grades, were against then-No. 14 Oregon State, then-No. 9 Oregon and national runner-up Washington.
The biggest knock on Ward is his propensity for turnovers. He threw 16 interceptions in the last two seasons but also fumbled 23 times.
Last year, Ward fumbled 14 times, including four times in the season-opener against Colorado State. Ward had more fumbles than all but three players in the nation. His 27.9 fumble grade was the 17th worst among all ball-carriers — quarterbacks and running backs — who carried the ball 20 or more times last year.
Ward had 21 “turnover-worthy plays,” according to Pro Football Focus. That was the 12th-most, nationally, and fifth-most among Power 5 quarterbacks. The stat includes potential interceptions and potential fumbles.
In an ideal world for Miami, the Hurricane’s high-level offensive line will keep Ward from getting hit often in the backfield, limiting his chances to fumble.
Ward’s strengths far outweigh his weaknesses. He is a proven quarterback who appears driven to have one last, strong college season.
Given his history in Air Raid-style offenses, he should slot into UM’s open quarterback spot with relative ease. Miami’s returning offensive weapons, including 1,000-yard receiver Xavier Restrepo, All-ACC third-team receiver Jacolby George, sophomore running back Mark Fletcher Jr., and several up-and-coming receivers like sophomore Ray Ray Joseph and freshmen JoJo Trader, Ny Carr and Chance Robinson offer a lot of potential playmakers for Ward to utilize.
Ward’s addition means the Hurricanes’ offense, which ranked 39th in the nation and third in the ACC last year, could be among the nation’s best in 2024.