Morrison hopes to earn shot at cornerback

TUCSON, Ariz. – He’s gone from quarterback to wide receiver to now being a cornerback.

Richard Morrison is a jack of all trades.

Or he is a man without a position?

We will see, but he’s comfortable after asking Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez if he could switch from wide receiver to cornerback this spring.

So far, it looks like he’s found a home.

“I told Coach Rod (Rich Rodriguez) that he could call me Slash,” said Morrison, a wide smile on his face. “I can play anywhere. He has seen that.”

The switch to defense is Morrison’s last-ditch effort to get as much playing time as possible.

He was recruited as a quarterback, moved to the slot receiver position, then made another addition at quarterback after Rodriguez was hired, only to move back to receiver once the coaching staff felt comfortable with junior college transfer B.J. Denker as a backup for Matt Scott.

Morrison caught 23 balls for 171 yards through the first six games. But he didn’t catch another — losing confidence of the coaches as a result of dropped passes.

Now, just a couple of months after asking for the position change, he’s trying to get noticed on defense.

“He’s been good,” Rodriguez told reporters on Wednesday. “I’m being measured a little bit because we have not tested him a whole lot in different coverages and all that, but I think it’s been a good move for him and for us, especially with our injuries at corner.”

Morrison, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound athlete, is getting a lot of reps this spring with starters Shaquille Richardson and Jonathan McKnight limited due to shoulder injuries.

“You don’t want to move a guy (to a new position) and have him watch,” Rodriguez said. “He’s shown a few good things this spring.”

The big question is how it will translate in the fall. With just more than a week before UA’s spring game on April 13 – it’s so far so good. But he realizes there’s a lot of learning still to be done.

“I love it. It’s a good change for me,” Morrison said this week. “But, like I’ve said, I’ll play where coach needs me. I just want to be on the field.”

His best way to do that is to watch a lot of game tape and ask a lot of questions. He’s constantly in the ear of Richardson and McKnight.

It’s about footwork, technique and much, much more. Quickness. Situations. Recognition.

The “little things” is how he put it. Being a former wide receiver has helped. Knowing how to defend a receiver is best known by a former receiver, right.

“I was a receiver for three years,” he said.

But it’s not that easy. Rodriguez said Morrison has to be tested under multiple coverages, and the Wildcats haven’t done that much this spring.
“When we start mixing things up, can he handle it mentally and have the confidence that if he makes a mistake to not compound it by making another?” Rodriguez asked. “But he’s a pretty competitive guy. I think he’ll be OK.”

But OK isn’t good enough.

“I expected it to be hard, and it is,” Morrison said. “Cornerback is one of the hardest positions. You have to have to know a lot. It’s about seeing and reacting … I know I have to learn a lot.”

And if you learn by getting beat by a receiver, well, that’s part of the growth process.

“You have to wipe it from your memory,” he said. “You’re going to be beat. You can’t always be the best. It’s about the next play.”

And then work hard to not get beat again.

“It’s all or nothing,” Morrison said. “Nothing is promised around here. But that makes you work harder. It makes me work harder. This is my last chance.”