Well that didn’t take long, did it? Five Miami Hurricanes served one-game suspensions for the season opener at Maryland and with a bye this weekend, Al Golden has already decided on a personnel change at quarterback, moving senior Jacory Harris to the leader of the pack, ahead of last week’s stater, sophomore Stephen Morris.
Morris led the Canes to a 32-24 loss against the Terrapins on Monday night in College Park. He was a serviceable 19-of-28 for 195 yards with one rushing touchdown.
On the negative side, Morris was responsible for three turnovers – an early fumble when sacked (running back Lamar Miller whiffed on his block), a late game pick-six (could Tommy Streeter have attacked the ball and prevented the pick? Maybe.) and an final moments Hail Mary in effort to do something (stat-padding in the wrong direction).
Morris did make some very good reads and throws, threading the needle at times, as well as spreading the ball around to nine different receivers. His go-to proved to be freshman Allen Hurns, seeing his first real action as a Hurricane with four receptions for 69 yards.
There were also some nice plays out of the backfield, getting the ball to running back Mike James, twice for twenty-one yards.
You don’t get the sense that Morris has been ‘pulled’ as much as coaches want to give Harris his shot. The one-game suspension might’ve proved a blessing in disguise regarding quarterback as it removed the word ‘controversy’ from the equation. Golden had no choice to to start Morris and after seeing four straight quarters is ready for Harris’ audition.
Should the senior falter, Morris has already seen big game action this season and can step in if his number is called.
When you look back at the quarterback competition since Golden took over, it sounds like both guys have mirrored each other. Neither has stepped up and taken over. Each has had good days and bad days. Both have shown greatness as well as proving average. Morris and Harris each have to grow and improve as this season rolls on. That’s something first-year offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch implied after the spring game and that still proves true in early September.
Like Jimmy Johnson before him, Golden is thought to be a heady guy with a psychological background. Pushing buttons and motivating is his style and there’s more going on here than we understand on the surface.
For starters, why was a starter named the Wednesday before a bye? Ohio State visits Miami in ten days and there was no rush – as least from the fans’ vantage point – to choose a guy today. That said, Golden has his reasons and the full depth chart has been released and Harris isn’t the only re-addition to the line up.
Despite good play from receivers, Travis Benjamin has been re-named to the first team, which isn’t a surprise. Benjamin is Miami’s most experienced receiver and besides wanting to make up for a dismal performance against Ohio State in 2010, it’s been mentioned that offensive coaches have designed a package around the shifty receiver.
Getting Benjamin the ball in space, allowing his speed to make plays – that is undoubtedly a goal for next week’s contest. Furthermore, Benjamin has been a Harris go-to since 2008, so getting his top receiver back on the field will ease nerves. Across from Benjamin will be Hurns, who topped Streeter and senior LaRon Byrd. Kendal Thompkins and Phillip Dorsett will back Benjamin on the other side.
Anthony Chickillo and Adewale Ojomo appear neck and neck at defensive end, with Ojomo returning from suspension and Chickillo being singled out by coaches for a solid game last Monday night.
The biggest re-addition to the roster might be linebacker Sean Spence back at weakside. The move sends Jordan Futch back to second string, backing Ramon Buchanan while freshman Denzel Perryman, also mentioned by coaches after a solid performance, is behind Spence. Jimmy Gaines remains your starter at middle, with Gionni Paul as number two.
The secondary remains the same, as Ray-Ray Armstrong is out three more games and the defensive line will be without Olivier Vernon until late October.
Wide receiver, defensive line, linebacker and quarterback will all get a necessary boost these next ten days and all four will benefit from the return of veteran players – and under center could prove biggest.
After eight months of Golden’s rule, who is No. 12 these days? Fans have scratched their heads for years now, wondering what happened to the confident kid who lit up Florida State, Georgia Tech and Oklahoma in 2009. In some ways, Harris seemed broken, courtesy of former offensive coordinator Mark Whipple.
Whipple preferred a strong-armed quarterback who could mail it downfield every other play and tailored his game plan that way, instead of working with what he had and utilizing Harris’ skills.
Ken Dorsey never had a rocket arm, but then-offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski was masterful in spreading the ball around, relying on the run and getting the ball in the hands of playmakers, allowing a five-yard screen to rumble for a seventy-yard pick up.
Will Fisch do the same -and has this new coaching staff figured out what makes (re: made) Harris tick? Can they recapture what was three games worth of lightning in a bottle, or is the senior too far gone? That’s a question only this staff can answer, but based on his being named starter, it doesn’t sound like this staff is done with J12 in the way many fans are.
There is time for Morris. As a sophomore, this will at some point be his team. There’s no sense of urgency to see what he’s made of at this moment. Conversely, Harris has eleven games to turn a dismal college career into a memorable one. Psyche-wise, the clock is ticking with J12 and if coaches are going to get something out of him, it starts now.
By keeping Morris under center, you’re basically telling Harris in an obvious, yet subliminal way, that he’s done at ‘The U’.
But by giving him that chance – and doing so emphatically, handing over the reigns less than two days after the Maryland loss – coaches are somewhat ‘parenting’ Harris towards maturity.
They’re letting him know they believe and as a result, are hoping that Harris works that much harder to get the job done successfully – and should he falter, No. 17 will be a few feet away, helmet in hand and ready to lead. This was the right play at 0-1 or 1-0.
A good coaching move on the part of Golden. Now it’s on the kid to get the job done. – C.B.