Shane Morris’ and Derrick Green’s time on the field will come soon enough—maybe earlier than once thought.
As the two highest-profile recruits of 2013, they represent a possible quarterback-running back tandem that could carry Michigan toward a national title.
At 6’3” and 210 pounds, Morris, formerly of Warren De La Salle Collegiate, is a statuesque quarterback for offensive coordinator Al Borges’ pro-style system. Also fitting well into the equation, Green, a 6’0”, 240-pound running back out of Richmond Hermitage, is the type of downhill blazer made for Borges’ ground game.
Whose debut do you anticipate most?
In Russell Bellomy’s stead, Morris has taken No. 2 snaps in camp. Bellomy, who backed up starter Devin Gardner in 2012, tore his ACL during spring practices, all but guaranteeing early action for Morris. Other than walk-on Brian Cleary, a redshirt sophomore, not much else stands in Morris’ path to becoming the second fiddle.
Entering camp, a handful of backs, including Green, figure to challenge senior Fitz Toussaint for No. 1 duties. After rushing for 1,041 yards as a sophomore, the senior looks to rekindle his career—taking his job won’t be an easy task, but Green may be the top contender of them all.
When Will Morris Debut?
Chances are Michigan’s freshman with a golden arm will see a few snaps Aug. 31 against Central Michigan. By sometime in the mid-to-late third quarter, the Wolverines should have a large enough lead to warrant mop-up time.
There wouldn’t be much sense in keeping Gardner on the field any longer than needed. That’s obvious enough. But what isn’t so obvious is who the No. 2 quarterback will be.
At this point, determining whether that’ll be Morris or Cleary weighs on Borges.
The third-year Wolverines offensive coordinator said the following to Maize ‘N Brew about the position battle:
You’d love to have it all in place by the week you’re ready to play, and probably will be, will be my guess. Right now, we’re throwing (Morris and Cleary) out there to see what they do. It will talk back to you eventually
With ears open wide, Borges is listening for what he needs to hear. Will Cleary, who played in the spring game, have the jump on Morris? It’s possible, but not likely. And now that Bellomy, the clear second-stringer prior to his injury, is out of the mix, saddling up Morris seems like the best overall fit.
Will Morris cement himself as the No. 2 QB?
Fans hold their breath waiting for Morris, so Borges may as well give them what they want. Certain pockets during Weeks 3 and 4 could also be Morris Time. On Sept. 14, the Wolverines host Akron. On Sept. 21, they play at UConn—two winnable contests and two ripe scenarios for Morris to enter, turn a couple of heads and get more comfortable with the big-time stage. Affording him opportunities to get comfortable early in the season is a must. After all, it’s only uphill from there.
Depending on how it plays out, the Michigan State game on Nov. 2 would be an ideal window for Morris to get acclimated with all things Wolverines football. Although the Spartans have won four of the past five meetings, coach Brady Hoke’s program seems poised for its second straight victory in the in-state tussle (UM leads series, 68-32-5).
A few complete passes and a strong drive or two would surely elevate Morris’ confidence. As a freshman, he’s probably looking forward to having an “I’m here” moment.
When Will Green Arrive?
A struggling run game yearning for new talent puts Green in a much different scenario than Morris. Rather than waiting, it seems that Borges and Hoke will immediately test Green from the start of the season. As the team sifts through a competitive scrum for top duties, it’ll also have to find a suitable No. 2.
Green could be either/or. Don’t be surprised to see him take the first handoff of the year. That doesn’t mean he’ll be the starter, but due to the hype surrounding his recruitment, Hoke may opt to appease his loyal followers by giving them a dose of Green as soon as possible.
The Wolverines were No. 5 in rushing yards in the Big Ten this past season, taking to the ground 331 times in eight conference games. That averaged to 39.125 attempts per game, including 11 per game from former quarterback Denard Robinson.
If efficient, Toussaint should get about 15 carries each Saturday, leaving for roughly 15 to 20 totes to divide between the rest; Green could receive the most.
Stars of tomorrow, Morris and Green should have ample opportunities to impress and earn playing time today.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81