Morrison Eager to Make Up For Lost Time

After having redshirting his freshman year due to a season-ending ankle injury, running back James Morrison finds himself in the middle of a wide open competition for a starting tailback position.

James Morrison is a local product out of St. Mary's high school in Phoenix. As a senior he had nine touchdowns and averaged an incredible eight yards per carry.

The running back was a walk-on last year and really impressed coaches with his bruising running style before suffering his injury. His hard work to get back has paid off though, and he was awarded a scholarship in the spring.

Monday's practice was a good test for Morrison's ankle as it was the first session in full pads and was very physical.

"It was a physical day," Morrison said. "We did a drill at the end of practice called the Oklahoma drill. Real physical. You have three downs to get 10 yards. It felt good to get real physical again since spring ball.

"It's going great (concerning his ankle). It's sore after practices, but no pain while I'm running or cutting. Full speed, all go on the field."

Morrison's injury required surgery and was one that he knows many backs don't come 100 percent back from. Needless to say, this past year was a challenging one, but he still found a way to learn from it.

"It was pretty tough mentally just to realize I couldn't play football," Morrison admitted. "All of my practices I had to do on film or just out here watching, getting a lot of mental reps. In the long run I think it helped me so I can see a lot of the defense. I read defenses a lot better now, and I know what's happening on the other side of the ball right now.

"When I was hurt I just called a lot of friends when I was down or family. They told me to keep my head up. It's not a career ending injury, so I could always come back and be better than I was before."

His ability to overcome the injury ultimately helped him obtain a scholarship this spring and he knows not to take that accomplishment for granted.

"It showed that coach still had faith in me to do what I know I can do," Morrison noted. "I showed it in the spring and I'm going to continue to show it in the fall and in years to come.

"When I was hurt I shed a few pounds. I was about 20 to 25 heavier than I am now, so I shed off a lot of bad weight. I worked on getting my speed; agility, quickness, and footwork back just from the ankle getting surgery. Coach told me I'm looking a little bit faster and quicker so I think it all paid off."

Also there to help Morrison in his progression is the linebacking corps of the Sun Devils, which figures to be a position of strength for the team, and a unit he will have to contend with every day in practice.

"Our linebackers are tough this year," Morrison remarked. "We're deep at the position. We got a highly recruited kid out of California, Vontaze Burfict. So they are going to be good no matter what. They have a good coach. It's going to make us good also because see them everyday. We do pass blocking and blitz drills with them, and we run against them with drills like the Oklahoma drill."

Last year's offense did not perform the way most people expected it to, but James doesn't feel they need to play with a chip on their shoulder to be successful.

"We're just out here to prove to everybody that our defense isn't the only strong part of this team," Morrison stated. "Our whole team is good. We're out here working the defense. The defense is supposedly one of the best in the Pac-10, and today we were out there completing passes and getting numerous touchdowns in the red-zone. People can say what they want, but they are going to see us September 5th (the dates of Arizona State's season opener)."

New running backs coach Bryce Erickson has really been working with the backs on finishing runs, making them run an extra 20 yards down field sometimes during practice. With no clear cut number one back, the competition is at this role is certainly heating up.

"It's pretty wide open, we have a lot of depth, and the coaches say just to come out here and compete," Morrison said. "Whoever is the best after camp will get the nod. Coach told me I'm more of a bruiser back. But like I said, I shed a few pounds. I want to be not only a bruiser, but more balanced as well.

"I want to hit a corner when I have to. I want to lower my shoulder when I have to get a yard, if I have to get twenty I want to get down the field as fast as I can. I know I'm known as a bruiser, but I'm working on my speed as well so I can be more balanced."

Morrison knows the meaning of hard work and knows that all he can control is what he does out on the field.

"I'm just out here working hard everyday," Morrison explains. "The main goal for all seven of us running backs is to be the starter, but in reality it's not going to happen so we just have to come out here and work. Whenever you get your reps in practice you just have to go to work."

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