Nov 17, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes quarterback Stephen Morris (17) throws a pass during the second half against the South Florida Bulls at Sun Life Stadium. Miami won 40-9. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown – Stephen Morris, QB Miami


As the Miami Hurricanes continue to try to reestablish themselves as one of the great programs in college football and get out of the basement of the big three college programs in the state of Florida, they do have some bright spots coming into this season including their senior quarterback, Stephen Morris.  Morris’s game has been as inconsistent as his playing time during his first few years in Coral Gables, but he does offer a significant amount of promise heading into this season and there are reasons to be excited for Miami fans as well as the NFL Draft community.

During his junior year, the first where he was a full time starter, Morris had 3,345 passing yards and 21 touchdowns with another one on the ground against 7 interceptions, but only completed 58.2% of his passes which is a little concerning when combined with a 7.9 yards per attempt average.  It is worth noting that 566 of those yards along with 5 touchdowns and 1 interception came in their game against N.C. State, so that makes his numbers look slightly inflated.

With that said, Morris’s statistics are not terribly impressive.  He has a significant amount of talent as a passer and has the ability to make every throw, but is incredibly inconsistent with his accuracy, so he could be poised to make a big leap if he can put it all together and perhaps the N.C. State game was a glimpse of what Morris can be this coming season and in the future.  The tools are there for Morris to be a successful quarterback and while he may not leave college as a finished product and will likely still need further development in the NFL, the tools are going to make scouts and draftniks likely overrate him.  Where he is now warrants an early third day pick but it seems more likely that he will end up going on the second day with the focus being on what he can be rather than what he is.  If he can put it all together and take a big step forward as a quarterback, Morris has the tools and ability to make a huge leap along the lines of an E.J. Manuel or Robert Griffin III have the past couple years.

Vitals & Build

Morris is listed at 6’2” 217lbs and his height will be discussed, but he really looks the part of a quarterback.  He does not appear to have a problem in terms of seeing the field or throwing platform, but 6’2 ½” is generally regarded as the magic number when height is not considered an issue.  If Morris’s weight is accurate, he has a lean build with a good amount of strength that looks awfully similar to the build of Robert Griffin III.  It also means that he has the room to continue adding strength to his frame, so there is still potential there.  Morris has good athleticism and quickness, which is more valuable for the position as his overall speed is not all that impressive.

Arm Strength

Morris is extremely impressive in terms of his raw arm strength.  He has shown he can push the ball down the field effortlessly in addition to the fact that he has shown a terrific fastball that can be fit into tight windows

Whether he is able to set up in the pocket or throwing the ball on the move or even off of his back foot, he has shown he can and will make just about any throw there is with some incredible as well as infuriating results.  There is little question he has the type of arm that will get some coaches weak in the knees.

Accuracy & Touch

Morris is extremely inconsistent when it comes to his accuracy.  There is no throw he cannot make, but there is no throw he cannot miss either.  He is the type of guy who is not going to go 100% against air.  He is somewhat of a rhythm passer and his issues with accuracy seem to come with his release point.  There are times when he will throw bounce passes and times where he will air it out.  Morris is pretty dead on in terms of where the ball should go in relation to ball placement and where his receiver should catch the ball, but has issues with elevation.  The issue is not with his footwork as he is just as accurate on the move or when he has time to set up under ideal conditions.  It just comes down to having the right feel for when to let go of the ball.

The good news is that Morris can be accurate short, medium, and deep as well as hitting timing patterns.  He has shown that he has the ability to make all of those throws, but again, it comes down to consistency and being a reliable passer.  He has not shown that yet and there is certainly potential to do that, but his stock is going to hinge on it.

Morris displays the ability to throw with touch and make an array of different throws.  He throws with a great deal of velocity so many of his throws look flat, but he does show the ability to throw the ball over different levels of defense and drop the ball into his receivers, but they maintain their level of zip so they are frozen ropes more than rainbows.  There are occasional throws that look like punts, which are from difficult angles but for the most part, he is able to consistently get the ball to his target with varying levels of touch but always with a great deal of velocity.

The tools are there and Morris demonstrates a ton of ability and potential in this area, but Morris gives ammo to people who want to make the argument that he is accurate and ammo to those who want to argue he is not; the reality is somewhere in the middle and he will have a chance to really prove he can be more accurate this season.

Mechanics & Footwork

Morris holds the ball lower than many might prefer as it can drift down to his chest at times.  When he passes the football, he goes from there to a long delivery that goes behind his head and then overhand a little like a windmill, but he is able to execute it quickly, so it is not slow or problematic at all.  If he held the ball slightly higher, it might make it work come out just a little faster, but it is not a problem; merely an opportunity to improve.  Whatever questions might linger about his height seem to go away because he does throw from such a high release point, so it might not kill off all of the talk about his height, but it should.  He has not demonstrated an issue with seeing the field or having throws with obstructed vision.

The Hurricanes run a pro-style offense, so Morris has experience under center as well as in the shotgun.  His footwork is crisp and clean coming out of from under center and he is able to throw in rhythm or come out and fire quickly for a bubble screen if need be.  The only problem is that Morris does not always use or trust his footwork and there are times when he could easily set up to make a throw and simply opts to throw on the move.  Perhaps even more stunning is that it seems to have no impact on his accuracy as he seems to be just as inconsistent throwing on the move as he does when he takes time to set up and throw.

Pocket Awareness

Morris is pretty unflappable in the pocket and does not wilt under the pressure.  At the same time, Morris does seem to demonstrate a good sense of what is going on around him and can use his agility to make guys miss and extend plays.  Morris does a good job of keeping his eyes down field, but in situations where he needs to look at the pass rusher to avoid them, he will look at them, but is then able to reset his eyes back down the field to look for an open receiver when he finds time and space.  Morris is extremely calm under pressure and does not seem to get too hyped up in the moment along with being able to maneuver in the pocket effectively.

Morris also does not require much space to operate as he does not step far, so he can throw in tight spaces.  It does not seem as though Morris has trouble finding passing lanes through his offensive line as he has not had an issue with deflected passes or seeing down the field.  His throwing platform is nice and high.

Decision Making & Anticipation

Along with his inconsistency in terms of accuracy, Morris’s decision making can get him in trouble at times.  There is basically no throw that Morris is not willing to make, regardless of the situation.  He will put the ball up and let his guys go up and make a play, which they will love him for, but it does result in some passes being put at risk in some bad spots.  The fact that his arm is so strong allows him to get away with this in a lot of situations but also can cost his team.

For the most part, Morris makes good reads and finds the open guy to throw the ball, but one on one coverage down the field is almost always a green light for Morris and he will bet on his guy to make the play.  He is extremely confident in his ability to stretch the field and is always looking to make the splash play when it is an option.  He is somewhat of a gambler in that respect, but has not really been punished for it to this point in his career.

In terms of anticipation, there are times when Morris will make some tremendous reads and throws that really open up his receivers to make plays.  As with most of his game, it is not an area of consistency, but he does show some impressive flashes and has been able to set up his receivers for some big plays as a result.  The one area where Morris does excel is when it comes to knowing where his guys are going to be on the field at almost any given time.  In situations where he is forced to take his eyes off of his receivers to make a guy miss or avoid pressure, he seems to be tremendous at picking up the play and finding spots to throw the football.  He never seems to be lost on the field.

Mobility

Morris is extremely quick and athletic in small areas, which is the ideal situation.  Making defenders miss trying to bring to make a sack keeps them off balance and forces them to gear down from power and just try to secure the tackle and gives them a sense of indecision, which gives the quarterback an advantage.

While extremely quick in the pocket with the ability to make opponents miss and enable him to set up quickly and make throws, Morris is ultimately a pocket passer.  He is far quicker than he is fast with tremendously agile feet, but not much in terms of overall straight line speed.  He is able to roll out and extend plays but he offers little in terms of ability to pick up yardage on the ground.  Smartly, when he does run with the ball, he is looking to get out of bounds or down as fast as possible in order to protect himself and get to the next play.  In short, Morris is a pocket passer with great feet and a strong sense of self preservation, which is about the ideal for most football coaches.  He can run the spread option if he needs to do it, but he is not the best candidate to do the job.

Morris’s ability to throw on the move will make him extremely attractive.  His accuracy is just as consistent when he has time to set up as he is on the move.  So while he has issues with consistency with his accuracy, his legs are not the issue, so he can roll out and throw on the move extremely well relative to how he throws the ball normally.  The fact that he is able to escape pressure and get out on the move and then throw so effectively is an extremely valuable commodity.

System Fit

Based on his skill set, Morris can play in any scheme because of his ability to throw the football and his arm strength combined with his accuracy.  Based on the way he seems to want to play the game, he is best suited in an offense that wants to go vertical early and often.  Morris seems like he would be right at home in an offense like the Jets ran with Joe Namath or the Raiders with Daryle Lamonica.

While it remains to be seen what will happen during his senior year, it seems unlikely that Morris will go from inconsistent but super talented prospect to a polished, refined quarterback, so he is likely going to be best served as a backup for a year or few.  He absolutely has the talent to start at some point in his career with further development and if a team can help him put it all together, he could be a great quarterback at the next level, but he is not there yet.

Schedule

Fri, Aug. 30 vs. Florida Atlantic
Sat, Sept. 7 vs. Florida
Sat, Sept. 21 vs. Savannah State
Sat, Sept. 28 at South Florida
Sat, Oct. 5 vs. Georgia Tech
Thu, Oct. 17 at North Carolina
Sat, Oct. 26 vs. Wake Forest
Sat, Nov. 2 at Florida State
Sat, Nov. 9 vs. Virginia Tech
Sat, Nov. 16 at Duke
Sat, Nov. 23 vs. Virginia
Fri, Nov. 29 at Pittsburgh

Notable Games

Morris is likely to be a popular prospect among the draft community anyway, but if he can go in and either play really well or lead the Hurricanes to a win over Florida at home the second game of the year, the excitement among the media and the average college football fan will be off and running.  It is a big game due to the fact that it is an instate rivalry, but Miami has been fighting to get back on track and this has the makings of a measuring stick game within the state.  If they win, people will declare the U is back.  If they lose, it is a setback for Al Golden and company in the eyes of the media.

The game against North Carolina has a similar feel.  Whether either team heads into that game undefeated or not, both Miami and North Carolina are football programs really trying to get traction and make a move in the ACC and this is a nationally televised game on a Thursday night featuring two talented senior quarterbacks and NFL talent scattered throughout the rest of both teams.  Morris also had a nightmare game against the Tar Heels last year, which was far and away the worst of the season for him.

Regardless of their records at the time, Florida State is an enormous game in Tallahassee this year.  Since Jimbo Fisher has taken over, the Seminoles are always a favorite to win the ACC title and that defense has impressive talent even after losing so many players to the draft last year.

The last one that stands out is Virginia Tech.  Not only does it have the potential to be a tough conference game, but it comes right after the game against Florida State.  If they lose against Florida State, it has the makings of a letdown game where their disappointment costs them two games, so Morris will need to be able to rally the troops for that game.  If they beat Florida State, they have to be able to maintain that focus for Virginia Tech.  In addition, the Hokies do have the potential to bounce back in a big way after last year’s disappointment and have some good defensive players like Antone Exum and James Gayle along with their up and down quarterback, Logan Thomas.

NFL Comparison

Morris is similar to NFL journeyman Jason Campbell at this point.  Campbell was much bigger coming out of Auburn but he was a big ball of talent at the quarterback position that needed to be more consistent and has yet to come together in the NFL.  There is nothing to say that Morris cannot put it together in the NFL, but he has the same type of great arm, issues with consistency, and is more of a pocket passer with some athleticism.  Campbell was able to get into the end of the first round, which is an example of how that can happen based on the future rather than the present.  Both will enter the NFL with a ton of talent, but it remains to be seen what Morris will be able to do with it.  Campbell has been able to make a good living in the NFL and there is little reason to think Morris will not be able to do the same, but with the potential to do far more.

Draft Projection

Based on what is being presented on the field, Morris warrants an early third day pick because of the tools he brings to the table and what he could be in the future.  That same size, potential, and arm talent is likely going to cause some to overrate him and call him a second day pick.  There is certainly potential for that to happen if he can polish his game and break through the wall of inconsistency, but he is not at this point.  Morris could be a potential breakout candidate which is what Miami has been waiting for with him, but it seems unlikely that he will finish his development and be an NFL ready starter.  In that scenario, Morris would be an extremely attractive developmental candidate but would not warrant a first round pick, but that has not stopped teams from going that route in the past with mixed results.

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