Fourth QB Possibilities: Morris

Miami's Stephen Morris went from one of the top quarterback prospects to a late-round possibility after an inconsistent and injury-plagued senior season.

Boasting one of the strongest arms in the draft, the University of Miami's Stephen Morris is looking to find a home in the NFL.

Morris started the last two seasons for the Hurricanes. After throwing 21 touchdowns and just seven interceptions during an impressive junior season, Morris came into his senior season looking to take the next step and assert himself among the nation's top quarterbacks and position himself as a top draft choice.

Morris played well to start the season, including against in-state rival Florida in the second game of the season. He threw two touchdowns, including a 52-yard-strike that gave Miami the lead for good in the second quarter.

It was not all smooth sailing from there, however. While Miami continued to win, Morris suffered from inconsistent play while playing through an injured right ankle/Achilles. Against North Carolina, Morris threw four interceptions before engineering a game-winning drive.

"Obviously, things went terribly wrong for me offensively," Morris said. "Our biggest focus was just trying to put that behind us and focus on this last drive, really."

The win put the Hurricanes at 7-0 and set up a showdown with fellow unbeaten Florida State. Morris threw two touchdown passes early, though the Hurricanes trailed 21-14 at halftime. They would not score again, however, and Miami was blown off the field in the second half in a 41-14 romp.

The loss triggered a three-game losing streak, as Miami lost to Virginia Tech and Duke in the next two games.

The team rebounded in its final two games, putting up more than 40 points in each of those games, to set up a showdown in the Russell Athletic Bowl against Teddy Bridgewater and the Louisville Cardinals. Morris had a chance to make a statement against a fellow NFL quarterback prospect but fell flat. He failed to throw a touchdown pass and completed less than half of his attempts as Miami lost 36-9.

Morris finished the season with 3,028 passing yards, 57.6 percent accuracy and 12 interceptions, a step back from his 2012 numbers of 3,345 passing yards, 58.2 percent and the seven picks.

"While Morris' statistics fail to come close to matching fellow draft-eligible quarterbacks Tajh Boyd of Clemson and Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Morris has had to operate in a scheme that featured the running game more often, but also utilized a pro-style passing attack," NFL scout Dave-Te' Thomas said. "Boyd's and Bridgewater's statistics were greatly aided by the spread offenses utilized by their respective teams.

"Morris has enjoyed his success mostly by taking his snaps from under center and he has shown great confidence in his rifle arm, regularly being asked to make those challenging downfield throws. He is a classic dropback passer with enough athleticism for the rollout, but realizes that his best attribute is a powerful right arm."

Morris is an athletic quarterback — he ran his 40-yard dash in 4.63 at the Scouting Combine — that keeps plays alive with his feet. Despite his running ability, he keeps his eyes downfield, which can create big plays in the passing game. He is good on timing throws, and has improved over the last two seasons in finding mismatches at the line of scrimmage.

His combination of strong arm, athleticism, pocket presence and high character should make him a coveted prospect late in the draft.

He needs to improve his footwork and, like any quarterback with a strong arm, he tends to trust his arm too much. Too much trust in the arm can lead to turnovers and bad decisions. His reaction under pressure can be poor, and he can often be late in diagnosing a blitz.

From a Packers standpoint, Morris could be the athletic type of quarterback that Green Bay has not had on the roster since its failed test drive of Vince Young last summer. With the Packers potentially looking for a fourth quarterback, they will look later in the draft and, potentially, look for Morris because of his arm and athletic ability.


Jacob Westendorf is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and an intern for Packer Report. E-mail him at westjd03@uwgb.edu. Find Jacob on Twitter at twitter.com/JacobWestendorf.


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