Friday, July 31, 2015

2015 Season Countdown: #30 Shane Morris

Shane Morris
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Name: Shane Morris
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 209 lbs.
High school: Warren (MI) De La Salle
Position: Quarterback
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #7
Last year: I ranked Morris #25 and said he would be the backup quarterback. He started one game and completed 14/40 passes (35%) for 128 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. He also ran 9 times for 28 yards (3.1 yards/carry).

Morris had a very controversial season in 2014 that had to have been difficult for reasons out of his control. He started off the year as Devin Gardner's backup. When Gardner and the team were underperforming halfway through the year, head coach Brady Hoke turned to Morris to start against Minnesota. A lot of people - including me - were opposed to the idea of benching Gardner, but it wasn't Morris's decision. He rolled his ankle, got concussed, and was left in the game despite stumbling around while trying to get back to the huddle. The handling of that issue would lead to tons of criticism of Brady Hoke, and eventually, the handling of the matter became the last straw for athletic director David Brandon's tenure.

Hit the jump for more on Morris and the quarterback situation.

(Aside: In a totally embarrassing coaching moment, shortly after Gardner was inserted into the game, he had to be removed for a play due to his helmet coming off; third-stringer Russell Bellomy couldn't find his own helmet on the sideline because of no damn reason at all, Morris was re-inserted for a play, and then Michigan put Gardner back in. This all happened so Michigan wouldn't have to waste a timeout. Honestly, this was perhaps when my last bit of faith in Hoke disappeared, and it's one reason I'm glad Bellomy is spending his fifth year at UTSA. That series of events is extremely amateur, and I have never seen something that stupid going back to when I was coaching 7th grade football right out of college.)

Back to Morris, though, all of the events surrounding the concussion overshadow the fact that Morris has just not been very good during his career. He had a decent game against Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl a couple seasons ago, but otherwise, he has been awful. I find this stat to be amazing, but he has not accounted for even a single touchdown in his two seasons. Zero. That includes two starts and ten total appearances. The offense has not been good during his time at Michigan, but that is virtually inexcusable. Morris is not physically outmatched (he has decent enough size, an arm that's plenty strong, and some pretty good running ability), but he is consistently late with his throws and panics in the pocket sometimes.

How much can a proven quarterback guru help Morris improve? Jim Harbaugh has done some good things with quarterbacks in the past, including Josh Johnson at San Diego, Andrew Luck at Stanford, and Alex Smith/Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. Smith in particular was a reclamation project, and Kaepernick was a project coming from a unique college offense. Harbaugh himself was concerned enough to look outside the program for replacements, which resulted in grad transfer Jake Rudock (Iowa) and underclass transfer John O'Korn (Houston), the latter of whom is ineligible until 2016. Even if Morris improves, an incremental step up from "very bad" is not that promising. This spring Morris showed some fire with the way he approached the idea of competition, and he seems to be trying to become more of a leader. He did throw the spring game's only touchdown when he threw a fade to Jaron Dukes over the head of 5'7" returner/slot/cornerback Dennis Norfleet. I don't know that those baby steps will be enough.

I expect Rudock to be the starter this season. He started for two years at Iowa, and while he's not a dynamic player, he is more consistent and a better decision maker. He probably won't set any passing records or put the team on his back and carry them to victories (or near victories) like Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner sometimes did, but at this point, Morris is the type of quarterback who squanders away victories. Michigan has a solid defense and should be able to run the ball, and the #1 job of Michigan's quarterbacks this year will be to not screw that up. Throw in Zach Gentry, who I expect to play a fair amount this year, and Morris does not seem all that important to this season's success.

Prediction: Backup quarterback


  1. your memory is faulty, Magnus. Michigan should have called a timeout when Bellomy couldn't find his helmet. Instead they put Morris in for a play. It was inexcusable and I believe it would have cost Hoke his job even with a much stronger finish to the season. Probably Nussmeier as well.

    1. I think he was calling the whole situation stupid-- which it was. Bellamy not knowing where his helmet was and hoke not calling a timeout we're both on a different level of dumb.

    2. @ Les Miles 8:38 a.m.

      Anonymous was right. My memory was faulty, as I had the situation jumbled a bit when I originally wrote it. It has since been revised.

  2. I'm hoping former 5 star Shane Morris isn't a complete bust.

    If Ruddock wins, good on him. But I'm secretly hoping the mentality of players has been kind of like this:

    Hoke obviously favored seniors compared to underclassmen. This kills the competitive spirit necessary to be successful in any facet of life.

    Now here comes spring ball, where Shane wants the job. He feels it's his because of Hoke's mentality from before, but Harbaugh comes in with 2 transfer QBs, and 2 freshmen QBs. That lit the fire under Shane Morris's butt, and he's working on touch and timing all off-season so hopefully he can be the guy when the season opens.

    Hoping. Another alternate outcome could be Ruddock starting this year, Morris graduates and transfers, is eligible immediately, but plays at a lower tier school, and O'Korn/Gentry (both of which I'm pretty high on) start next year.

    1. Here we go again. Coach Z was so incompetent at X, Coach Y is going to fix it and ride to glory.

      Borges to Nussmeir, Rodriguez to Hoke, Carr to Rodriguez. Same story. None of these guys are incompetent. All of them have strengths and weaknesses. We don't have to boil it down to some oversimplified narrative about toughness or motivation or some other intangible. How many times do we have to repeat the same silly thing.

      Could Harbaugh improve the competitive spirit? - sure. But he'll probably do some things worse than Hoke too. Nobody should expect that desire and competition were the problems with last years Michigan team. It was talent, player development, scheme more than that.

      Also, Shane Morris was a 4-star who didn't get any impressive offers beyond Michigan and was hurt his senior year. He's got more talent than your typical 3-star but this ain't Drew Henson, Chad Henne, Ryan Mallet.

    2. "Nobody should expect that desire and competition were the problems with last years Michigan team."

      You're wrong. There have been plenty of stories about the lack of competition being an issue last season. That's evidenced by guys like Jim Miller, Blake Countess, & Heitzman leaving instead of competing for their spots.

      The entire off-season the two main issues spoken about have been the lack of competitive spirit of the team and a lack of player development (obviously related to competition).

      In regards to Carr, Hoke, RichRod, Harbs, etc, I don't know what you're getting at. Are you saying they are all equals as coachs? that one is not better than any of the others? I hope not, b/c it's pretty obvious to me that Hoke's probably the worst on that list.

      Lastly, Shane Morris had a Alabama offer, but I agree with you, he's not, nor will he be, Henson, Henne, or Mallet.

    3. You can't read anything into Morris's offer list. He committed so early and was so clearly blue that there was no point in anyone bothering. (Bama did offer, but they carpet-bomb the top players nationwide with offers.) Sure, he wasn't Henson, who was possibly the state's most hyped recruit ever (or at least since Wheatley), but the idea that he wasn't good enough to get more major offers is laughable.

      That said, that was a long time ago; what matters is what's happened since, which has been ugly.

    4. Once again, Lank to the rescue.

      Coaches can't be incompetent. You're right.

      For 10 years, our cross country team in high school ranked in the top 2 in the state. The season he retired, the team dropped off the map. It's not that the next coach was incompetent, it's just that he had worse runner development. The runners stopped developing. Not due to coaching, don't blame the coaches.

      Shane Morris started off as a 5 star, and was demoted to 4 star status after he sat out the entirety of his senior year with mono. Hence the "former".

      "It wasn't the coaches, it was talent, player development, and scheme."

      Coaches recruit the talent.
      Coaches develop the players.
      Coaches choose the schemes they run.

      .... but it can't possibly be the coaches. Having Jim Harbaugh on our staff isn't going to change a thing.

      I truly wonder what goes through your mind when you post any comments. If you're deliberately trolling, or if you really don't know what you're talking about.

    5. Lank seems like he wants to refute things for the sake of refuting.

    6. The statement, "it's was not the coaches, it was player development, talent, and scheme" really threw me over the edge. Because that's coaching.

      There are game prep coaches, who do all 3, then there are game time coaches, who make all decisions during the game.

      Saban for example is wonderful at the former, pretty average at the latter.

    7. Of course coaching matters and of course some coaches are better than other! My point was that coaching is a multi-faceted thing. It can't be boiled down to one feelingsball element each offseason.

      Barwis was going to make everyone a super-athlete, Nussmeir was supposed to make things "simple", Hoke was supposed to bring "toughness", now with Harbaugh it's "competition". The oversimplified narrative is a waste of time. Each of these coaches probably did/will bring an element of improvement, but it's not a magical cure-all and there are trade-offs involved.

      All of it matters. Getting talent, developing talent, keeping talent, scheme, strength, off-field issues. It's never one thing OK. So let's not act like Hoke had no competition, Harbaugh will, and national titles will fall from the sky as a result.

    8. You CAN read into Morris' offer sheet. Teams offer committed players all the time. If teams were hot for Shane they would have made runs at him.

    9. @9:42 Anon.

      Good fake quote. I never said it wasn't the coaches. People are acting like Hoke ran a country club. Nobody said this kind of garbage until the team was losing. It's just people trying to rationalize what went wrong and why it'll all be better now.

      Stop arguing with imaginary statements.

  3. Nice in-depth post. So glad we got Rudock.

    "an incremental step up from "very bad" is not that promising" -- very true this year, very true last year too, though we had less certainty about it then.

    Last year I wrote: "Backup QB is more of a competition than starter." and I think that will apply again this year.

    That evaluation proved in inaccurate in 2014, as Speights and Bellomy were not ready or able to compete. However, my doubts about Morris based on the KSU game were validated. He was bad. He might have been the only QB I didn't overrate.

    I'm not sure what kind of wizardry Harbaugh and co. have in store for 2015, but to me Morris seems locked in to a backup role again. Though now he is a junior and his competitors are true freshman. I'm a little more skeptical than Thunder about Gentry playing an immediate role, but I am intrigued by the idea of a package of plays designed for a guy who is more of a run threat. I think Morris could be effective in that context (a limited set of plays).

    If Morris can be used as the captain of a change-of-pace offense that utilizes some QB-run elements, his value to the team could be much higher. I'd love to see this employed at times when our base offense struggles -- kind of like how Beilein strategically employs zone defenses when his D struggles.

    If that happens, Morris rank would shoot up. Easier said than done though. That sort of thing remains a dream, and Morris is nothing more than an unproven backup. That said, he's also a guy that protects us from throwing a true freshman out there.

    Good rank. Good post.

  4. Good write-up. Agree that Morris will not stack-up well against a guy who completed 60% and had a 3:1 ratio last year in games. You mention the panic and being late with throws. I don't think he sees the field particularly well either and another big problem is that he does not throw a very "catchable" ball. Receivers just seem to drop a higher percentage of his passes than is normal. In this offense in 2015, I think we can expect a fair amount of short passes and dump offs to TE's and RB's, which Rudock handles quite well.
    I think Shane had a chance to shine this spring when his main competition was Speight and a HS senior. JH did admit after the spring scrimmage that Shane was ahead of Malzone, but c'mon... that would be a travesty if he weren't. Anyway, there did not seem to be any indications coming out of spring that Shane had seized the job. JH probably saw the same things that we have seen, going back to his HS junior year.

    1. Well put. By now there is a track record. A new coaching staff clouds the picture a bit, but we still have plenty of information about most of these guys.

  5. Is it possible for Shane to be the backup but not actually play a snap in order to get back the development year he lost by not RSing? Feel sorry for the guy, he seems to be making strides w/ actual coaching.

    1. No, Michigan needs to have a backup who is as prepared as possible and Morris would benefit from garbage time snaps. Furthermore, he's probably still going to be a backup next year so there isn't much benefit to spending another scholarship to keep him on an additional year when he should be getting passed by Harbaugh recruits. Harbaugh didn't bring all those guys in to sit behind Morris through the next 3 years.

    2. Do you really think that Shane's primary problem is that he is a victim of bad coaching? Borges was probably sub-par, but Nussmeier had a decent reputation from working with college and pro QB's. Coaching is always a factor, but it is highly unusual for "coaching" to turn an otherwise good player into a poor one. And traits like staying calm in the pocket and scanning/delivering under pressure are not easily coached up.

      As for RSing, Shane is probably more important as a back-up this season than he will be in 2016. Harbaugh is recruiting the QB position like a guy who was not impressed with what he inherited. And he is not looking for players who need three years on the shelf before they can approach competence. I think Shane will need to play a fair amount this year and show much better than he did last year in order to be a serious candidate in '16. O'Korn is lurking and appears to be the real deal.

    3. none whatsoever. harbaugh wants to win now, and im guessing he understands msu and osu already hold huge leads in terms of overall talent, establishing culture, positive image, winning big games, etc - plus he does not strike me as the sentimental type if it concerns winning or losing football games. sure, morris has not received the greatest, most cohesive coaching to date, but he also has issues thatll likely remain unfixed and prevent him from ever leading his team to big time W's.

      i firmly believe in turning over rosters as quickly as possible in most cases and only redshirting certain positions and only redshirting when absolutely necessary or when future benefits glaringly obvious. and im guessing harbaugh thinks similarly in terms of managing his roster - we already saw him add multiple QBs per class to enhance competition and increase odds of hitting on that rare gem at sports most vital position.

      more total players = greater chance of finding and developing all league types and future professionals. huge difference bw recruiting approx 100-120 players over 4 years vs signing 60-80 players over 4 year period. roster management is huge part of successfully fielding competitive teams each fall and every single scholarship matters. coaches should have ideas on where they envision all 85 fitting at any given time. recruiting a certain number of "locker room" or "attitude" type backbones can be a good thing but theres a fine line - in my opinion (and the likely opinion of saban, meyer, harbaugh, etc), each recruit should be envisioned as play making starter at some point down the line (if not, why knowingly recruit average talents who you cant foresee impacting games?).

      it honestly would not shock me if harbaugh aims to turn over hokes players as quickly as possible given the teams culture, recent record on the field and overall country club or private school vibe of many players. theres obviously plenty of tough, athletic, hard workers in that team room but theyre also many same guys who rushed for negative yardage or 27-27 and thats not harbaugh. so i do not anticipate many unnecessary redshirts, particularly when it comes to hokes holdovers. harbaughs not a scumbag so hell try to handle things decently but he wont give morris a 5th year bc "he feels sorry for the guy" - especially since a 5th year for morris likely results in similar play from morris while preventing harbaugh from adding yet another new, potential star to his team

  6. I will be thrilled if Shane can get it together and start next year if not this year. But I think it much more likely that O'Korn or Gentry easily surpasses him. It will be sad when/if he transfers as a senior given how much excitement there was over his recruitment. Player development is just so important and I fear that the ship has sailed on Shane. In the meantime, thank the Lord for Ruddock. I think he will exceed expectations and outshine his years at Iowa.

    1. Not sure what good transferring would do Morris at this point. It's not like he had a promising first year here (like Mallett) and then got replaced by someone else that the coaches liked better. He hasn't shown anything in two years that would get any high profile (or even lower profile) program interested in him as a transfer. And unless he left before this season started, he'd have to sit out a whole year just to play one more year.

      At this point, his best bet is to stay here and keep fighting for PT. I have doubts that he'll ever be a contributor here, though.

    2. Hey, Bellomy was able to transfer, and he didn't even have the benefit of the recruiting profile that Morris has (not to mention, his inability to find his helmet was probably the single most embarrassing moment of last season).

    3. Agreed, that Morris probably will never see meaningful time at this point. Rudock will take the starting job this season and next year will be a competition between O'Korn and Gentry. Morris may find himself not only on the bench next season, but pretty far down the depth chart.

      Too bad; he was a very exciting prospect who clearly loved UM with everything he had.

    4. Transferring makes sense if the guy is not playing and has an interest in more than holding a clipboard. That's why QB transfers are rampant in modern CFB. Assuming he rides the pine behind Rudock this year, he still won't be a hot transfer prospect for other majors, but he would have no trouble realizing his dreams of being a starting college QB at a lower level.

    5. I do hope Morris is able to complete his education at Michigan. I don't think he's got an NFL career ahead of him so getting that diploma will be important. That might be the worst part about him missing out on a redshirt year--if he does want to transfer, he may have to do it as an undergraduate, sit a year,band graduate from a less prestigious institution.

  7. The 2013 class was the first class I remember really following in regards to recruiting. It was also the same year I visited Columbus/Pickerington for the first and only time. We went out to a bar that night and everyone was busting on this one guy who was a known Michigan fan in the heart of OSU territory. I remember the Michigan fan saying something to the effect of: "We got Shane Morris coming in, the lefty" and he mimicked a left handed throw.

    I remember thinking to myself, "yeah, things are turning around for us!"

    No so much

    1. Classic example of why it is not good for coaches to put all of their eggs in one basket as Hoke did with Shane - especially a kid whose rep was built upon his soph year of HS and the camp circuit. Even a top QB evaluator like Harbaugh realizes there are no sure things and you need numbers and competition.

  8. There is a significant disadvantage to being the backup QB in a completely new offense. The starting QB will get the overwhelming percentage of available snaps with the ones and will play much deeper into garbage time than would be the case in a stable established offense. The starting QB will also enjoy a more disproportionate amount of available coaching time. As a result the backup QB in this circumstance will get much less experience and game exposure.

    Gardner found himself in this position in 2011, when there was a great deal of commentary on various blogs about how he was no great shakes when he occasionally got on the field.

    Excepting the pre-bowl game practices where he was the starter, both of Shane’s seasons as backup were under these precise conditions. Should Rudock be the starter in 2015, Shane will continue to be in this same situation.

    Given Thunder’s assumption that Rudock will start I can’t disagree with this rank. But I hope that his assumption turns out to be wrong and Shane manages to beat out Rudock for the starting role. Shane’s given a lot to Michigan and I’d like to see him succeed here.