It was a throwaway comment on the official allCanes Facebook page this week, but it spoke volumes as this individual isn’t the only UM fan who agrees with the sentiment.
To paraphrase, a message to head coach Al Golden to not start junior quarterback Stephen Morris as he’s “the worst”.
And so it goes. Another year, another jaded bunch with knee-jerk reactions.
A handful of fans too distraught by Miami’s recent downturn to actually see any silver lining with this new staff, or to have any hope in the immediate future.
Make no mistake, the Hurricanes have their work cut out. This squad still lacks depth, leadership, skilled upperclassmen and is loaded with green talent. Injuries are already taking their toll on the practice field and Golden’s squad is still two years away from a true, “next man in” mentality.
Still, there are some areas where UM is finally ready to take a step forward and quarterback is one of them.
Anyone on Morris’ back at this phase of the game has a pointless axe to grind. The junior first saw action as a true freshman in a loss at Virginia in October 2010.
The Canes were down 14-0 at the half, with starter Jacory Harris knocked out early and the Cavs led, 24-0 early in the fourth quarter before Morris helped rally UM to a, 24-19 loss in the waning moments.
A week later, Morris got his first start against visiting Maryland and connected with wideout Leonard Hankerson for the game-winning touchdown – a 35-yard strike with :37 remaining. Morris went 18-of-30 for 286 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Next up, with Harris still sidelined, a 35-10 win at Georgia Tech – Miami’s first in Atlanta since 2004. Morris finished 10-for-18 for 230 yards and his lone touchdown pass, a perfectly-placed strike that Hankerson took 79 yards for the score.
Morris absorbed his first loss in late November when Virginia Tech headed south. Tied 17-17 after three, it was the Miami defense which broke down first, not the freshman quarterback.
Down 24-17, after giving up an 84-yard run to Ryan Williams, Morris was intercepted mid-field and five plays later, was up, 31-17. Morris was again picked off on the Hokies’ nineteen-yard line.
UM amassed 464 yards to VT’s 369, but lost the turnover battle 6-to-1 and while the freshman quarterback made some mistakes, he kept Miami in a very winnable game against a formidable opponent, in his third career start.
Harris got the nod in 2011, which wasn’t a shock as a new coaching staff was seeking stability and looked to avoid controversy.
Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch managed to help Harris turn things around, going from 148 completions on 270 attempts for 1,793 yards and a 14-15 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2010, to a 195-of-300 for 2,486 yards and 20-9 ratio, with four of those nine picks coming in the season finale against Boston College.
If Fisch could save the three-years-damaged Harris, one has to believe that Morris, with two years remaining, a better arm and more athleticism, can take a nice leap forward in 2012.
Coaches gave Morris the nod over Memphis transfer Ryan Williams and cited his leadership, understanding off the offense and work ethic, rehabilitating from off-season back surgery – as well as his arm – for the leg up on Williams.
Nothing was handed to Morris, as coaches were quick to point out that he stepped up and took what was rightfully his.
“He earned it,” Golden said. “He had a great off-season, had a great summer. He’s unquestionably the leader right now.”
Fisch echoed that sentiment, while focusing on Morris being completely healed.
“He showed us that he’s 100 percent healthy,” said Fisch. “That was our first question when he came back from the [surgery]. The next thing is he showed us that he has tremendous command of the offense. He really spent this spring almost like a redshirt year.
“The spring he spent with me, next to me, really leading the young kids and all that other stuff, was awesome. He showed us, No. 1, that he was mentally prepared, and then, No. 2, totally physically prepared. His arm strength has been tremendous. His feet have been great.”
Fisch went on to say that Morris has also grown as a leader on and off the field, which should be music to the ears of all who longed for Harris to slide into that role, though he never did in four years.
Things came close in 2009, but a disastrous junior campaign a year later seemed to rattled the Miami Northwestern product’s confidence and even with a cleaner 2011 campaign, Harris never truly became “the man” and never led.
As Miami preps for a September 1st showdown at Boston College, it’s time for fans to back “the new man” as this coaching staff has.
Morris stepped in to relieve as a freshman, paid his dues as a sophomore and earned his starting job as a junior. This is his team and again, time to believe in his maturity, growth and decision-making until given reason not to.
This fan base’s skepticism is understandable after the last half decade of football, but let’s not make a young man on the rise pay for the sins of his predecessors. Clean slate for No. 17. Give him a chance to show what he’s got. – CB