ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Shane Morris’ destiny at Michigan rests in his hands.
His story will be completed either as a quarterback — a dream he’ll never abandon or discard — or as more of an offensive weapon — an idea not too far out of the realm of possibility.
Yeah, a cool head has kept him among the group of quarterbacks for four years. But his hands could lead him down a new path with the Wolverines during his remaining two seasons.
“My main goal, my priority, is to be the starting quarterback at the University of Michigan,” said Morris, who was redshirted in 2015. “If for some reason that doesn’t happen, if I’m not able to do that and someone beats me out, I wouldn’t be [opposed to WR/another role], obviously…”
Willing to adapt. Willing to undergo significant change, even if it means reshuffling the deck. Bending but not breaking. Willing to combine the two with zero hesitation. Morris, who enters his fourth year at Michigan, deserves credit for riding out the uncertain times since arriving as a 5-star prospect in 2013.
His flexibility shows maturity.
“I would do anything I can to help the team, whether that’s playing quarterback or receiver or anything like that,” said Morris. “If I’m not the starting quarterback, then yeah, obviously I’d do anything for the team. I’ve always been like that — that’s the kind of player I want to be, a team player.”
Back in spring, passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch spoke highly of Morris’ hands. Similar comments came from teammates too, shining a light on the 6-foot-3, 208-pounder’s overall athleticism.
“Quarterbacks usually do [have the best hands], you’re always playing catch your entire life and you’re always catching the ball — someone’s always throwing it back to you,” said Morris, who’s risen as high as No. 2 on the depth chart (following 2015 spring game). “That’s how you get some of the best hands. Quarterbacks should always, you know, always have one of the best pair of hands on the team. They do most of the time.
“So yeah, I mean, I can do that. I can run and, you know, I know the offense. So, [offensive weapon/WR] no, not out of the question.”
Wheels have never been an issue. Remember his 27-yard run during Michigan’s 34-10 win over Miami (Ohio) in 2014? A year prior, he had a 40-yarder during Michigan’s 31-14 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl loss to Kansas State — he was a true freshman thrown into the fire, a kid thrown into the driver’s seat of ex-coordinator Al Borges’ incredibly inconsistent offensive scheme.
Regardless of the situation, Morris has rolled with waves of change. Three offensive coordinators. Two head coaches. A revolving door at quarterback. This year, though, has put him at ease. He knows exactly what to expect.
“It’s different. Definitely having all of the different offenses, all the different offensive coordinators — and every time you get a new offense, it’s learning a new language,” Morris said. “And you know, it’s tough and you’ve got to kind of go through that.
“This year, having a second year in the same offense — it’s awesome for me. It’s really exciting. I’m able to learn all of the intricacies of the offense, and having watched it the past year and, you know, having watched it a lot, the different ways the ball can go in different places… it’s awesome, it’s a great learning experience.”
Once Morris perfects his touch, he’ll be a serious contender for the job. Mastering that technique was one of his major goals during the offseason. Goal accomplished, he says; he also improved footwork and read-efficiency. He’s faster and more aware, but he’s always had those aspects under control. He just needs to tune-up the finesse.
Since assuming control of quarterbacks in 2015, Fisch has seemingly been in Morris’ corner. During media day, he insisted that the battle for starter doesn’t begin and end with Wilton Speight vs. John O’Korn, who each have three years of remaining eligibility.
“Shane is right there,” Fisch said. “I mean, it’s not like one of those [things] where there’s two [QBs] — drop (gestures with hands). It’s not. He’s right there, too — and he’s competing. He’s going to get his chance. We’ll see. Shane’s just got to avoid the big mistake.”
An honest comment, no doubt. About as clear as it could get. That type of relationship, one on the up-and-up, provides a bridge built on trust. They’ve even talked about the future over dinner — chicken and steak. Fisch, his wife, Morris and Morris’ girlfriend, sharing a meal and family-like discussion.
“He’s a great coach, and he’s a good mentor and really does anything he can to help us [players] out,” Morris said.
Following spring scrimmages, Fisch explicitly laid out a top-three in the pecking order.
“And that’s how it’s going to be going into camp — it’s us three [O’Korn, Speight, Morris],” said Morris, who has career numbers of 389 passing yards, five interceptions and zero touchdowns. “When we finished spring ball, our grading was very close. And that’s how they base a lot of things from — they have this grading scale. All of three of our grades, you know, were very close — minuscule differences.
“And they thought that there’s no reason to name a guy, or name a [No.] 1 or 2 guy. They’re going to bring us into the summer, and they’re going to start us all equal. We’ll see how we performed, you know, how the work in the summer has paid off and see who’s the starter.”
Another summer of waking up early, lifting, throwing — and then repeating. Four days per week. All of that work, which Morris enjoys, in hopes of claiming the No. 1 spot on the quarterback depth chart.
“My biggest thing was, you know, trying to find drills, QB drills, that a lot of the NFL guys are doing,” he said. “You can find those online and watch videos of them. I watch those, emulate those guys, and see what that they’re doing — because obviously it’s working. I’m going to try to do that and get better from that.
“And I feel like I did.”