Waiting His Turn

Running the ball and offense was all Tony Morgan had ever known. He just finished his sophomore year at Garner High (N.C.), was starting to get letters from colleges, and was anticipating big things on the gridiron as a junior. Then he was asked to move to cornerback for the betterment of the team.

Garner High head coach Nelson Smith had a problem this past season any coach in America would've loved to have. He had four legit running backs and only enough carries to satisfy two. Seniors, Josh Oglesby, a Virginia Tech commit, and Chris Culliver, who is headed to South Carolina, remained in the backfield. Tony Morgan and classmate Reggie Bowens, another Division-I recruit, moved to the secondary.

"I'm going to be honest, my whole life I wanted to play offense," said Morgan, who is garnering interest from the likes of Ohio State, Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina State, Clemson, East Carolina and Notre Dame. "I never played defense before. That was a big change for me. It was something I had to make work so I could help my team. I wanted to play running back and they were older than me, and they were trying to get the seniors out there so they can be known."

Mission accomplished. Those coaches didn't forget about the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Morgan either, and he is still being recruited to play running back. What they probably remember most is the 4.49 40-yard dash he said he ran at the Scout.com combine in Atlanta last summer. Morgan said he is faster now, saying this week he clocked a 4.32 and a 4.42.

Morgan doesn't have any scholarship offers yet. He also camped at N.C. State, and reports a bench press of 265 pounds, and a squat of 315 pounds.

Smith has talked to assistant coaches from those schools sending the most mail regarding Morgan. He said Irish assistant coach Jappy Oliver came by the school during the summer.

At cornerback, Morgan registered 83 tackles, had three interceptions, one going back for a score, helping Garner High to a 13-2 record and the Eastern State Championship game. He also ran a kickoff back for a touchdown.

"The biggest thing, he'd never played back there until this year," Smith said. "We just wanted to get as many athletes on the field as we can. He made strides back there. He'll probably play on both sides of the ball to some extent this year."

As a sophomore, Morgan said he rushed for 850 yards and eight touchdowns. He also returned a kick for a score.

"He has good size, has good moves, catches the ball well, excellent runner," Smith explained. He has to work on his blocking some, but that is like most high school players."

Morgan has taken unofficial visits to East Carolina, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, North Carolina and Notre Dame. He came with his brother and father to South Bend for the North Carolina game this past season.

"I remember how great the atmosphere around there was, the people there were open, and they make you want to come there," Morgan said. "I really liked it. The stadium was nice. Good coaches, and it was very cold.

"I know they have a good winning tradition there, and they are strong in academics."

Morgan has some work to do if he wants to attend Notre Dame. It's early but he lists his favorite schools as Notre Dame, Ohio State, Florida, N.C. State and East Carolina. Morgan has a 2.0 GPA, but with two semesters left, he feels good about raising that number. He is also taking an SAT prep class.

"I am working as hard as I can in the classroom to raise my grades," Morgan said, admitting early immaturity. "I want to go anywhere I want, not somewhere because of my grades."

He also wants to go somewhere with the ball in his hands. It will be again this coming season, as him and the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Bowens move back to the backfield.

"As long as I get to carry the rock, I'm fine," Morgan stated. "I always want to be at running back, but if I have to play defense, that is fine also. I'll play either one."

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