Lost amid the chatter of Johnny Manziel leaving the Manning Passing Academy for dehydration or an illness or a hangover is that Miami Hurricanes quarterback Stephen Morris won the camp’s skills competition.
Morris topped an elite field. Among the college quarterbacks in attendance at the Manning Academy were A.J. McCarron, David Ash, Marcus Mariota and Tajh Boyd. Stephen Morris topped Nevada’s Cody Fajardo and a 2013 Miami opponent in Florida’s Jeff Driskel in the final round.
His win going largely unnoticed behind the deluge of the latest Manziel drama is strangely befitting of Morris’ career. He isn’t widely recognized among the nation’s top quarterbacks coming into 2013.
He was even something of an afterthought in his own program. Morris had to battle his way into the starting quarterback job at The U.: first against veteran Jacory Harris and later, opposite Memphis transfer Ryan Williams.
Through it all, Morris has sharpened his abilities and established a veteran savvy. His progress is continual, and last season was evident on a near-weekly basis. He ended 2012 with momentum, throwing multiple touchdowns without an interception in each of the Hurricanes’ final four games.
Winning the Manning Academy skills competition only adds to the positive trajectory. Come the season, it’s going to be difficult for pundits and scouts to continue overlooking Morris.
The competition is hardly a be-all, end-all indicator of the season Morris has to come. These were drills run without pads nor defenders bearing down on the participants, after all. Still, it’s a testament to his potential, both as a 2014 NFL draft prospect and more importantly to the Hurricanes’, as his ability potential in the 2013 season.
Disappointment defines Miami’s quarterback record in the past decade. Jacory Harris failed to reach the potential he demonstrated very early into his career. Predecessors Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman were ineffectual, the latter opting to end his career at Baylor. Brock Berlin closed out his otherwise career on a high note in 2004, throwing 22 touchdowns with just six interceptions.
Somewhat ironically, Berlin’s 12-touchdown, 17-interception campaign a decade ago coincided with the Hurricanes’ last run to a BCS bowl. Not coincidentally though, Miami’s quarterback instability since has contributed to the program’s drought.
Morris’ play is central to the Hurricanes’ aspirations. The program’s first ACC championship game appearance is within reach. Many prognosticators are calling for Miami to win the Coastal. Beating conference front runners Clemson or rival Florida State to land Miami’s first BCS invitation in a decade rests larger on the offense, with a young Hurricane defense working to make huge strides from a dismal 2012.
Morris has no shortage of weapons surrounding him. The State Of The U. made an observation that could prove to be prescient:
Improving QB who has a CANNON for an arm. Speed skill all over the field. QBs best friend (TE) got upgraded. OLine one of best in country…
— SOTU writers (@TheStateOfTheU) July 14, 2013
The Hurricane offensive line is indeed flush with talent. Morris will have a variety of targets at receiver in Allen Hurns, Philip Dorset and newcomer Stacy Coley, and at tight end with highly touted JUCO transfer Beau Sandland.
Add the balance stud sophomore running back Duke Johnson provides in the rush game, and the sky’s the limit for both the Miami offense and Stephen Morris. Expect production from the senior that no one can ignore.