Miami Football 2012: Naming Stephen Morris Starter Is the Smart, Safe QB Move

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterAugust 15, 2012

April 14, 2012; Miami Gardens, FL, USA;  Miami Hurricanes quarterback Ryan Williams (11) throws a pass to Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Rashawn Scott (80) during  the spring scrimmage game for the University of Miami at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE

While Texas, Florida and Oregon all play host to intriguing quarterback battles, the University of Miami has decided to pull its hat from the "quarterback controversy" ring.

Head coach Al Golden, as reported by The Miami Herald, elected to name Stephen Morris the starting quarterback for the Hurricanes entering 2012. Morris, who saw legitimate action in 2010 and 2011, beats out Memphis transfer, Ryan Williams, for the job.

Williams was the wild card in this battle, a ball of athleticism that folks were hoping could materialize into an elite quarterback. After a season at Memphis where he showed flashes, Williams sat out 2011 and was expected to truly battle Morris.

However, Morris went down with a back injury for spring ball and a prolonged competition never ensued.

Now, with the season set to start in a matter of weeks, Morris has done enough to win the job and he now looks to steer the Canes' ship. As Al Golden put it quite simply: "I just think Stephen earned it."

That's a big deal.

Last season, Morris got the opener start by default. This season, the rising junior earned it through his play. With the Canes starting out with conference play, the focus shifts from who will be the starter to how this offense will look with Morris under center.

As Morris has already shown in his Miami career, he's got some talent. The kid can absolutely spin the football, boasting a strong arm that allows him to make every throw offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch asks of him.

To go with the arm, he has solid mechanics and footwork. He takes sound drops, can set himself in the pocket and deliver a strike to his wide receivers.

In addition to his ability to deliver the football, Morris does bring some athleticism with him. He's not a running quarterback—don't expect him to set the pace with his legs. However, he is a capable, mobile body. He can move both inside and out of the pocket. Morris is comfortable on the rolls and half-rolls that Fisch employs and is able to deliver the ball, while on the run, moving to both sides of the field.

Things are not all rosy for Morris, though. He's got areas on which he desperately needs to improve for his and the team's sake. Accuracy is huge. In both the deep and intermediate throws, Morris needs to stick to the mechanics he has and deliver a ball on target; not up in the air.

Letting sail is a recipe for interceptions over the middle or for getting jumping receivers demolished.

Another area I'll be watching for improvement in will be his recognition of threats and internal clock. Threat recognition for blitzes is huge. Morris, as the quarterback, the captain of the ship, has to recognize where his blitz threats will come from and adjust his progression reads accordingly.

The kid also has to mind his internal clock. In football, especially at the BCS level, it is rare that quarterbacks get all day to pick through their reads. Morris has to do a better job of getting rid of the football or getting out of the pocket to avoid the rush.

All in all, it is a good pick for the Canes. They got a quarterback who knows the offense, a guy who has the physical tools to succeed and who wants to be "the guy" at The U.

Ryan Williams isn't gone, as the Sun-Sentinel reports. The quarterback is still planning on pushing to get time this season:

Williams said he's obviously disappointed, but not giving up on playing this year. Capturing the job in August, he said, isn't likely, but anything can happen. Morris' strong arm, knowledge of the offense and mobility were all good reasons Williams identified as reasons for the coaches' decision.

But a few mistakes linger in the back of his mind.

"There were a couple of throws I missed, a couple of reads earlier in camp," Williams said. "Maybe I was a little nervous when we first started camp, but I think I relaxed and got into a groove. … There a couple times where you just feel like, 'Well, that might have been the play that really set us apart or that could have been the deciding factor.'"

He's determined to put the pressure on Morris through his play and that's a positive for the Miami program. For now, though, Stephen Morris is the guy to lead the Canes offense and they're a ball club that's looking to find some real success under Al Golden.