UM’s Morris ready to lead his Hurricanes

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Stephen Morris’ goal?

 

Simple. He wants to walk into a store one day near the University of Miami and

hear folks talking about his reign as a Hurricanes quarterback.

 

For now, when Morris goes shopping, he can’t help but hear the names of many of

the legendary guys who have stood behind center for the school. They include

Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde, Steve Walsh, Gino Torretta, Craig

Erickson and Ken Dorsey.

 

“It’s big,’’ Morris said of playing the same position for Miami. “Like, that’s

all you hear when you walk around and when people see you out at like Target or

Walmart or anything like that. People always see you and (talk) about Ken

Dorsey’s legacy and Bernie Kosar’s legacy and everything like that. … Hopefully.

That’s the main goal (that Morris eventually will be talked about in a similar

manner).’’

 

Morris, a junior, will get his big chance beginning with Saturday’s opener at

Boston College.

Although he started four times as a freshman and once last year, for the first

time he enters a Miami season as the undisputed leader of the team.

 

“It’s a great feeling,’’ said Morris, a Miami native who played at Monsignor

Pace High School in Opa-Locka. “Personally, I’ve been waiting two years to get

this opportunity, and now that it’s here, I really want to grasp it and run

with it.’’

 

It’s actually the second consecutive season in which Morris has started the

opener. With Jacoby Harris suspended, Morris got the nod last year at Maryland.

 

Morris completed 19-of-28 passes for 195 yards. But he threw two interceptions,

including one that was returned 54 yards for a touchdown with 39 seconds left

to put the game out of reach in a 32-24 loss to the Terps.

 

“Light years,’’ Hurricanes coach Al Golden said of how much Morris has

progressed since that game. “He’s got more self-confidence right now. He’s

exuding it. He’s led in every aspect that you have to lead in. … I think he’s

without question our leader right now. … I’m as excited to watch him play as probably

anybody on our team.’’

 

Morris had back surgery after last season and couldn’t participate in spring

practice. But he nevertheless made great use of the sessions. He was given a

whistle, and he was like another coach on the field. He closely observed

players he would be leading this season.

 

“It gave me an opportunity to learn personalities,’’ said Morris, who said he’s

unconcerned about taking any hits Saturday after coming off his back surgery.

“When somebody had a great play, how they celebrate, how happy they are. The

more important thing is how they are when they mess up or have a … mental error

and how do they respond and what is the best way to go talk to them and how to

criticize them.

“When you’re the leader of this team, you have to understand

115 different personalities.’’

 

Morris has worked hard to get to this point. As a true freshman in 2010, he was

thrown into the fire, playing in six games, including starting the final four.

Morris competed 82-of-153 passes that season but threw nine interceptions compared

to just seven touchdowns.

 

Morris last season barely played after the opener. He threw just nine more

passes, finishing with 26 completions in 37 attempts for 283 yards with no

touchdowns and those two interceptions in the Maryland game.

 

“He’s grown massive,’’ redshirt sophomore tight end Clive Walford said of

Morris. “I came in with (his class). So the strides from him being a freshman

to a junior is amazing. … His vocal leadership has stepped up (and) the way

he throws the ball with great confidence and accuracy.’’

 

However, there might be one flaw with his throwing.

 

“He has a cannon,’’ wide receiver Phillip Dorsett said. “Sometimes he doesn’t

need to throw the ball 100 miles an hour every throw.’’

 

Other than that, there have been few complaints about Morris. If he has an

impressive season, there figures to be plenty of talk about him at Target and

Walmart.

 

Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com

or on Twitter @christomasson