CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Miami is willing to wait and see if Stephen Morris’ sprained left ankle improves before the Hurricanes choose a quarterback to start on Saturday night against No. 12 Florida State.
Ryan Williams practiced Tuesday as Miami’s presumptive starter, with Preston Dewey as his backup, while Morris spent the day in and out of treatment and unable to do anything on the field. And while plenty of signs point to Williams getting the call in the annual rivalry game with the Seminoles, Miami coach Al Golden said he’s still giving Morris a chance.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Golden said. “I would have to classify him as a game-time (decision) right now. … So we’ll see. Ryan did a great job today, threw the ball well, practiced really well, made all the throws so we’re excited about him. We don’t have really two separate game plans going in. And if Stephen’s healthy, we’ll give it a shot.”
Golden said the earliest he expects Morris would have any chance of being on the practice field is Thursday, and if he makes it out there then, he’d likely be limited to 7-on-7 work. Miami is obviously concerned, and obviously doesn’t know if Morris will be ready, as proven by Golden sending a 5:30 a.m. text message to ask how his quarterback was feeling.
Small problem: Golden sent that text to the wrong Morris — he sent it to Jim Morris, Miami’s longtime baseball coach.
“I’m feeling fine,” Jim Morris said.
Either way, Florida State is ready for either Williams or Morris. Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said his staff might even study some tape of Williams’ games at Memphis in 2010 — he transferred to Miami after that season — even though that wouldn’t do them any good as far as breaking down what the Hurricanes might try against them on Saturday night.
“You have to prepare for both,” Fisher said. “And when you say prepare for both, though, how drastic are they going to change? I mean, in two or three days of practice, you could change your offense and do some different things, but the foundation is still going to be the same. One’s a little more mobile, one’s a little bigger and stronger, but they’re both very good quarterbacks.”
Fisher’s offense has no such who-will-start dilemma.
The Seminoles boast perhaps the ACC’s hottest quarterback right now in EJ Manuel, who led Florida State past Miami last season and is coming off a career-best 439-yard, four-touchdown showing last weekend against Boston College.
Going back to last October, Manuel is 13-2 in his last 15 appearances. And he’ll be facing a Miami defense that, in only seven games so far this season, has allowed at least 32 points five times and at least 498 yards of offense to opponents four times.
Still, the Miami defense that Manuel sees on film, he said, is fast and athletic.
“Those guys are still smart, I’m sure, too,” Manuel said. “So I think we have to go out there and execute. I don’t really think it’s necessarily about the defense that we’re playing against. I think we have to go out there and do what we’re supposed to do.”
Morris has thrown for 1,991 yards in seven games this season, including a school- and Atlantic Coast Conference-record 566 against North Carolina State. He’s one of the biggest reasons why Miami, a team widely picked to finish near the bottom of the Coastal Division, is in the thick of the league race.
Golden indicated Morris has earned the chance to get back on the field this week.
“We all only get so many shots at this,” Golden said. “I’m not going to ask him to sit out the Florida State game or for any game, to be honest with you. If he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go. If you see him out there, it’s because he is ready to go and he can execute in that game. If he’s not, then that question is answered.”
For his part, Williams is taking the added responsibility of potentially making his first Miami start in stride, even though it would be on national television against an archrival before what’s expected to be a jampacked crowd in Sun Life Stadium.
The way he sees it, games like this are why he came to Miami in the first place.
“The only thing different is getting more reps with the first team now,” Williams said. “I’m preparing the same. I do the same amount of film study every week. I’ve been preparing like I was the starter. I just wasn’t with the (first-string) doing the actual reps that Stephen was taking.”