Stephen Morris entered his senior season as one of the most volatile quarterbacks in terms of where people were projecting for the draft with the potential to elevate himself to be one of the top picks in this draft. There were so many that wanted to believe he would become the consistent passer he has yet to be and put it altogether this year. Unfortunately, Morris has been the same inconsistent passer this year for the Miami Hurricanes that he has been in the past with some brilliant performances and some absolute disasters, sometimes within the same game.
Morris has incredibly impressive tools. His arm is impressive, he gets rid of the ball quickly, has terrific footwork and is a great athlete. Morris has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback, but there is still inconsistency in terms of his accuracy and decision making, it is still not all there yet for him. He will leave Miami with a good, but not ideal amount of experience. One big question that Morris will have to answer is why he is virtually identical as a player as he was as a junior and what prevented him from making a step forward. In spite of his flaws, Morris is going to be an attractive prospect that grades out as a third day prospect but will probably . Morris needs to go to a good situation and sit for a year and possibly more as he is further developed to correct his flaws and if he can do that, he can be an effective starting quarterback.
Vitals & Build
Morris measured 6’1 3/4″ 208lbs at the Senior Bowl 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. Morris is extremely slight and looked downright small in person. It is imperative that he be able to add more strength and fill out his frame. Morris has good athleticism and quickness, which is more valuable for the position as his overall speed is not all that impressive.
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 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. For the most part, he is going to be an accurate passer and can put the ball on the spot, but there are times when he will just misfire and it is unclear what is causing it. 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. For all of his ability, his completion percentage has been in the 50’s during both his junior and seniors years. 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 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
As a junior, Morris held the ball lower than many might prefer as it can drift down to his chest at times, but it seems as though he has worked to keep that ball higher for his senior season. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Morris needs to go to a team where he can sit and learn for a little bit. It remains to be seen if that is part of a season, but is likely to be closer to a full season and possibly longer. 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.
Morris is similar to NFL journeyman Jason Campbell. 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.
The tools for Morris are impressive. He has everything physically required to be a terrific quarterback in the NFL from his arm, the ability to put the ball on a spot and athletic ability to extend and create plays with his legs. The questions with Morris are his decision making and his consistency with accuracy. When he is right, he is phenomenal but he can fall apart and mae game losing decisions for his team. Morris will have the opportunity to raise his stock in the postseason process and there are going to be questions why he did not take a bigger step forward as a senior. Nevertheless, Morris looks like a third day pick between his lack of size and his inconsistency as a passer. The potential is there for him to succeed in the NFL if handled properly and if he can become consistent.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com