ANN ARBOR, Mich.–In a sense, Friday’s availability at the Towsley Family Museum illustrated Michigan’s ongoing quarterback duel.
Jake Rudock–a 6’3,” 208-pound senior transfer from Iowa–stood in one corner, while Shane Morris–a 6’3,” 209-pound junior–sat in a chair across the floor from the incoming challenger.
Both have complemented each other’s drive, but both have admitted that the past three weeks have been personally grueling. Of course, Rudock wants to start. Same goes for Morris. The sets of reps, the memorization of plays and the learning of new techniques have pushed them to their limits.
But it’s clear that Morris, a former Warren De La Salle standout, realizes that time is of the essence. Rudock, on the other hand, seems to know that he’s close to victory.
Emotionally and physically taxing? It’s been every bit of that, says Morris. But too much too handle?
That’s because Morris, who graduated high school as a 4-star recruit, has thoroughly prepared himself to lead the Wolverines on the field Sept. 3 versus the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.
“It’s been crazy, really, the competition and how we’re battling it out,” Morris said in a relaxed tone. “Like I said earlier, it’s like boxing. We’re just throwing punches back-and-forth. Some days he has a better day, some days I have a better day and that’s it. It’s a great competition. It’s really coming down to the wire, I guess–the last round.”
As usual, Morris didn’t bat an eyelash when asked if he felt he was the right guy for the No. 1 job in coach Jim Harbaugh’s offense.
“I think I’m ready,” he said sharply. “I’ve been preparing for this for a long time. I’ve put all the work in–so I feel like I’m ready to be the starter.”
Having another year at Michigan has sparked noticeable changes in Morris. It’s not that he ever came off as overly immature or ill-mannered–that’s never been the case, actually, at least not publicly–but for some reason, he appears more refined, confident and calm this season. His athletic ability has never been in question, either–it’s just that things haven’t quite lined up for the hard-throwing southpaw.
Not yet, anyway.
“I’m a much better player; more mature in the game–I know more,” said Morris, who’s working with his third offensive coordinator–this time it’s Tim Drevno–in the past three years. “I’ve been through more. I understand the game a lot better than I have in the past, and I know our offense a lot better than I have (known) previous offenses. You know, it helps a lot. It helps a lot. Coaching has been awesome. I’m learning a lot from coach Harbaugh and coach Fisch.”
Harbaugh spent 14 years in the NFL with four teams, while Fisch–the passing game coordinator–has a resume highlighted by stops at Miami (Fla.) and in Jacksonville with the Jaguars. Having Harbaugh and Fisch’s influence–not to mention having a renewed focus and attention to detail–has greatly benefited Morris.
“I know more about the game, obviously now, from being in college for going on my third year,” Morris said. “Also, I understand what it takes, you know. I understand the time commitment and how much you have to put into it–and it’s a lot.”
At the end of 2014, Morris took a hard look at himself and decided it was time to flip his fortunes.
“I just kind of realized (that I needed to) spend more time…” he said. Since turning 180 degrees, the homegrown talent has become a bookworm and addicted to learning.
“(I have been) just studying over and over again,” Morris said. “Just reviewing all the installs, I mean, even if I know. I still sometimes go back and review the first install from spring, you know, just to see if I missed anything little thing or any little thing that a receiver’s route has.
Just kind of, not really just studying my position, but studying all the other positions too–the line, how they block on run plays, the receiver’s routes and how they block–back-side cut-off or man-on. You know, it’s awesome to actually know that stuff. You feel more comfortable going into the game that way, too.”
That’s maturity, and that’s the result of buckling down and realizing that nothing is guaranteed.
But it takes an equally mature person to realize that he indeed has competition–and worthy competition, at that. Win or lose, Morris appears ready and able to become a steady contributor to the Wolverines.
And that’s in any capacity, starter or not.
“I also feel like we both have (earned the job) in a way,” Morris said. “He’s obviously played a lot more than I have; he’s started two years at Iowa and has been successful there in a way. We’ve been back-and-forth throughout camp. And we’re both, I feel, either one of us who starts–we’ll be ready.
It’s what the coaches are doing; they’re preparing both of us to start and whichever one of us starts, we’ll be ready to play and we’ll be ready to lead Michigan to wins.”
On that note, queue the L.L.
And Michael Buffer.
Follow Adam Biggers of Today’s U on Twitter @AdamBiggers81