Name: Shane Morris
Weight: 209 lbs.
High school: Warren (MI) De La Salle
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