TUCSON – Arizona’s Richard Morrison was one of the last to leave the football practice field last week.
It was by design.
“If I’m not working out by myself,’’ he said, “then I’m not doing my job.’’
His job, right now, has become two-fold: get healthy quickly, and get better at the wide receiver spot.
Morrison, a high school quarterback in Texas, spent part of spring drills learning how to run Rich Rodriguez’s offense — due to the lack of experience behind starter Matt Scott. But while he’s still an option to take snaps if the Wildcats are in a pinch, Rodriguez said Morrison’s primary role this fall and beyond is as a receiver.
“It’s wide receiver all the way,” Rodriguez said, before offering up a quick caveat: “We might try to give him a few reps at quarterback here and there because he’s explosive.”
Not right away, however. Morrison, a fourth-year junior, tweaked a hamstring and has been out of full action since practices began.
He spent practice last week working on the stationary bicycle and catching passes from the football-throwing machine. He also went half speed – at best – catching passes after practice.
It’s not clear when Morrison will return, but he did say the injury wasn’t serious.
Good thing for Arizona, which can’t afford to lose a crucial piece like Morrison for too long. How crucial will Morrison be? He could be all over the field: punt returner, kickoff returner, wide receiver and, yes, QB.
“I see myself as Mr. Versatile. I do whatever I can whenever I can,” said Morrison, a 5-foot-11, 183-pounder from Royse City, Texas.
“If I had to go back to quarterback, I would, but right now my plan is to be a wide receiver. I’m happy with it. Coach is going to put me in the right spot.
“Just being on the field is my biggest thing. With this new offense and this new coaching staff, I’m just ready to be out there.’’
In the spring game – granted, against his teammates in a soft game – Morrison was one of the star players, with two touchdowns on five catches.
Morrison called that a “motivation’’ in seeing what he could do in Rodriguez’s spead offense.
“I didn’t get to do as much as I wanted to in the other offense,’’ he said, referring to previous coach Mike Stoops, “so this is my opportunity to show what I can really do.’’
Morrison had 22 catches for 201 yards and two touchdowns last year. Of course, he was among a group of talented veterans receivers, led by Juron Criner. Now, senior Dan Buckner and Morrison are the elder stateman of the receiving corps.
But before he can make his presence felt, Morrison must get healthy.
“I want to get out there with my teammates … I’m not really worried about it,’’ he said. “It’s part of the game.’’
Until then, he’ll work extra to keep from falling behind.
One of the reasons Morrison can concentrate on his receiving duties is the diminished need at quarterback. In the spring, the position was thin, but transfer B.J. Denker (Cerrittos JC) and freshmen Josh Kern and Javelle Allen are now with the program and have been taking a lot of the snaps behind starter Matt Scott. Rodriguez has seven – yes, seven – quarterbacks on the roster.
“I like to collect quarterbacks,’’ he said, jokingly. “Some people like to collect coins.’’