Versatile Morrison hopes to find home on defense

TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona senior Richard Morrison would like to leave the slash in his past.

It’s been slash/slash/slash for Morrison for four years.

Slash meaning he can play quarterback/wide receiver/punt returner/cornerback.

“I feel I can play anywhere,” said Morrison, who was recruited as a quarterback out of Royse City, Texas. “I’m a true athlete.”

But an athlete without a position to call his own. This fall, for his final college season, he’s at cornerback. But there’s always been a caveat — for now.
It isn’t easy being the jack of all trades and master of none. He’d rather his coaches identify his spot, leave him there, and, well, play him.
“As long as I start,” he said, laughing.

Last year, he started the season opener at slot receiver and played nine games. For the season, he had 23 catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns but lost playing time in the second half of the season. He requested a switch to defense this year, figuring his chance of playing was better.

“Basically, since I got here when I was a quarterback, I had always wanted to play cornerback if I didn’t play quarterback,” Morrison explaining to reporters on why he asked for the switch in the spring.  “I got switched to wide receiver and I was good at it, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do.”

Arizona returns its top three cornerbacks from last season in Shaquille Richardson, Jonathan McKnight and Derrick Rainey. Meanwhile, the wide receiver position that appeared to be blessed with abundant depth and talent has been thinned due to injuries and defections.

It begs the question: When will Morrison be back at wide receiver?

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said he hasn’t really thought about it and it won’t happen anytime soon, but if Morrison isn’t playing on defense, he’ll find a way to play him somewhere because he’s just too valuable to sit.

Morrison said the first two weeks of camp have gone well, but playing-time decisions aren’t up to him.

“The competition is tough, so I’ll just try to get in where I fit in,” he said.

It was about this time last year when it appeared as if Arizona could use his help at quarterback, with no real backup for Matt Scott emerging. But B.J. Denker claimed that role, and Morrison went back to working with the receivers.

Since switching to cornerback, Morrison has focused on the mental aspects of the position.

“It’s one of the toughest positions on the field,” he said. “You gotta be smart and you’ve gotta be good. You have to have good technique.  It’s tough.”

Of course, he added, if the coaches asked him to make a switch, he would do it no problem. He knows the offensive system. Knows the plays. And is ready.

“I’d switch if they asked me to,” he said.

All he’s ever wanted to do is play.

“There’s a sense of urgency,” he said. “This is it. I don’t have time left. It’s just the next few weeks and then I’ll follow my destiny.”