Miami quarterback Stephen Morris wants it to be clear: He was nowhere near Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel when the Texas A&M quarterback was catching up on his Z’s instead of working on X’s and O’s at the Manning Passing Academy a couple of weeks ago.
“I wasn’t his roommate. I have no idea what happened,” Morris said. “I did not know anything about it until campers came up to me and started telling me about it.”
While the focus was on Manziel for being sent home after oversleeping and missing meetings, Morris’ story from the camp was much different.
Competing against 40 of the top quarterbacks in the country, the 6-foot-2, 214-pound senior won the skills competition and emerged as a rising star. By the end, one analyst gushed that Morris might be “the most talented” QB in the nation.
“The Miami signal-caller’s natural talents made him stand out above the rest of his peers,” NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks wrote on NFL.com. “Morris spins the ball with exceptional velocity and zip while showing a deft touch on intermediate and deep passes. Most impressively, he is deadly accurate.”
Morris, who completed 60 percent of his passes and threw for 11 touchdowns with no interceptions in the final four games last season, downplayed the impression he made, instead talking about the overall experience.
“Everybody at camp performed extremely well,” he said Sunday from the ACC Football Kickoff media event. “It just happened that I won the skills competition.”
Morris added that personal instruction from Peyton and Eli Manning was invaluable.
As for Manziel, Morris spent some time with the polarizing sophomore whose off-field exploits have been dissected since the end of last season.
“He’s a very cool guy, very down to earth,” Morris said.
While Manziel will try to live up to his Heisman-winning season, Morris’ challenge in his final season in Coral Gables is leading Miami to its first season with double-digit wins in a decade and first ACC title game since joining the league in 2004.
To do so, Morris and his teammates must again play through distractions.
The NCAA soon will announce a decision on its three-year investigation into the football program, a weight that Morris has played with for nearly his entire time at UM.
Whether that means Morris won’t get a chance to play in another postseason game (he relieved Jacory Harris in the 2010 Sun Bowl as a freshman) is unknown. Miami has self-imposed a postseason ban the past two years.
Morris is trying to avoid thinking about that and instead focusing on leading an experienced offense. The Hurricanes return eight starters on that side of the ball, including their entire line, and will put more responsibility on running back Duke Johnson, the ACC’s offensive rookie of the year.
Morris, who threw for 3,345 yards last season while setting the school record for total offense, will work under his third offensive coordinator in James Coley, who left Florida State to return to his hometown.
Morris said he likes the change. He said Coley’s spread offense will bring out the best in Miami’s talented group.
“We (have) athletes, and my biggest job is to get the ball to these athletes,” Morris said.
“I’ve got to make better decisions. … That comes with game experience. I felt I got that last year. Now it’s time to show it.”
Commissioner wants NCAA to act swiftly: ACC commissioner John Swofford spent time in Indianapolis in mid-June with Miami officials as they attended the NCAA’s infraction committee hearings. The hearings were the last step before the NCAA decides the penalties for the university for the scandal that centered on rogue booster Nevin Shapiro.
Swofford praised Miami for the way “their personnel and their leadership in (counsel) Mike Glazier” handled the meetings. Now, he wants the nearly three-year investigation to come to an end.
“I would hope that whatever is coming from the NCAA will come before the season starts,” he said. “I’d be very disappointed if that’s not the case.”