MOBILE, Ala. – Long gone are the days when the University of Miami was nicknamed “Quarterback U,” but Stephen Morris is hoping to bring them back.
Back when the likes of Bernie Kosar, Jim Kelly, Vinny Testaverde, Gino Toretta, Steve Walsh and Ken Dorsey were slinging the ball around, the Hurricanes were on the radar of every NFL team in need of a quarterback. The program has gone through some serious ups and downs since then, but this week in Mobile is Morris’ chance to turn some heads as a member of the North team.
“As soon as I was coming out here I saw Steve Walsh and me and him were talking on the phone before and he’s always been a big supporter of me and always helped me and encouraged me,” said Morris, who starred at Miami-Monsignor Pace in high school. “Just coming from Miami and especially playing quarterback you’ve got to hold yourself to a high standard and do well there. My biggest focus this week is to just do all of the right things, get the ball to where it’s supposed to be, make the right reads and make the right throws, show a lot of accuracy, show mobility in the as well as getting out of the pocket and making plays with my feet.”
The Miami native is coming off of back-to-back seasons where he threw 21 touchdown passes and for more than 3,000 yards. He completed 198-of-344 passes for 3,028 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for a 144.7 passer rating. In 2012, he went 245-of-421 for 3,345 yards, 21 touchdowns and just seven interceptions for a 138.1 passer rating, with his best game coming in a 44-37 win over North Carolina State. He completed 26-of-49 passes for 566 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.
Two of Morris’ offensive linemen – guard Brandon Linder and tackle Seantrel Henderson – will be protecting him during drills and of course in Saturday’s game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. They know better than just about anyone else what he is made of and are looking forward to helping him show everyone else.
“He’s going to show that he’s an NFL quarterback and he’s got a great arm, he’s got great decision making and I really like the way he plays so he’s got a lot to show,” Linder said. “He’s very confident in the huddle, comes up to the line, calls the plays and looks everyone in the eyes.”
Morris sat behind Jacory Harris his first two seasons in Coral Gables and got some valuable playing time as a freshman in 2010, completing 82-of-153 passes for 1,240 yards, seven touchdowns and nine interceptions. His sophomore year was less eventful, going 26-of-37 for 283 yards and two interceptions in limited action.
Linder and Morris were roommates in college and did a lot of studying together, so that’s another comfort the quarterback has this week that not every quarterback has. Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith and is coaching the North team with his entire staff and in just one day he already has noticed Morris.
“Stephen has impressed me in the 24 hours that we’ve been here,” he said. “I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with him and he’s a very impressive young man.”
All Morris needs to do is look back at the Senior Bowl’s recent history to see how quarterbacks not previously ranked high on draft boards parlayed their week of practice and the game into a better return on draft day.
Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Pat White, a Mobile native, was the MVP of the 2009 game, outperforming USC’s Mark Sanchez and earning praise from scouts. FSU’s E.J. Manuel was the MVP of last year’s game and went in the first round to the Buffalo Bills in last year’s NFL Draft so Morris has a clear and defined goal that he wants to accomplish while in Mobile.
“I want them to know that I’m a true quarterback,” Morris said. “I’m one of those guys that’s in there all day, all night with the coaches game planning, studying film and always being there for my teammates. On the field, you want to show them that you can get everything done. You can throw the ball with velocity, put touch on it across the field and between the hashes and throw on the run. I’m just trying to show them that I’m a complete quarterback on and off the field, especially with leadership.”
THIS AND THAT
University of Florida wide receiver Solomon Patton measured in as the smallest player on the South Team at 5-foot-81/4 inches. … Mississippi State guard Dan McCullers was both the tallest at 6-foot-6 and the heaviest at 348 pounds on the South. … Washington State safety Deone Bucannon had the longest wingspan with a 78-inch wingspan. ... Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton weighted in at 315 pounds, which was much heavier than his usual playing weight of 265.