Shane Morris needs more seasoning before he evolves into the quarterback he’s meant to be.
Development takes time, but the soon-to-be Michigan sophomore certainly has a few things working for him—size, talent and a pro-style system.
As a first-time starter, Morris held his own while his Wolverines were shelled 31-14 by Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. His 63 percent completion rate and composure in the pocket were enough to assume that 2014 could be his year.
With a bright future ahead in Ann Arbor, Morris has plenty of time to shine—as long as he continues to adjust, that is.
Morris doesn’t have to look far to see what hopping a few hurdles can do for confidence. On New Year’s Day, Connor Cook led Michigan State to a 24-20 Rose Bowl victory over Stanford.
He wasn’t perfect by any means. In fact, he probably should have thrown at least three picks; he was lucky on two would-be interceptions but not-so lucky on the other, a pick-six in the first half.
Cook is twice the player he was in camp. A case for the nation’s most-improved quarterback could be made for the sophomore who won the No. 1 job over senior Andrew Maxwell, a former Rivals 4-star.
Next fall, Morris will start his second season with the Wolverines—he too will compete with a senior, Devin Gardner, for top dibs.
If Cook can dethrone a vet, Morris, a former Rivals 4-star, certainly can.
Will Morris Take the No. 1 Job from Gardner?
That’s not to say that Morris will lead Team 135 to a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl Championship. But stranger things have happened.
It takes a special kind of focus to shake off the negative and embrace the positive. For Morris, the “negative” was a 7-6 finish in 2013 and what equates to garbage time on the field. The "positive" is his potential.
Denying his upside would be foolish.
He wasn’t allowed to bloom in 2013 because the Wolverines needed every minute possible from Gardner. Another spring and summer will only equip Morris for the better.
At 6’3” and hovering in the neighborhood of 215 pounds, he’s more than physically ready for his upcoming role.
The next phases are upstairs and in the film room. Watching Cook's game tapes wouldn't hurt. It's safe to say that Morris has his eye on the competition.
Stay True to Self
As a program, Michigan tortures itself by attempting to live up to age-old standards set by legendary coaches and players from eras passed. That approach, obviously, isn’t working.
Today’s players and coaches suffer while a passionate fanbase yearns for progress. Morris, a hometown kid out of Warren De La Salle, has to be himself—a young gun with promise. He grew up watching Wolverines football.
He knows that his time is coming—with “his” being the keyword.
There’s no harm in paying homage to greats—there would be something wrong if he didn’t. He wears No. 7, but Morris doesn’t have to be Rick Leach or Chad Henne.
In 2013, Morris was the No. 4-ranked prep QB in the land, per Rivals. He doesn't have to completely forget that, but he shouldn't rely upon it. All of the elite camps and pre-college hype needs to take a backseat.
Focusing on the now is of top priority.
No longer a freshman, it’s time for Morris to grow up and seize control. Judging by what he did in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, he looks to be on the right path.
Encourage the Run Game
So maybe the whole “forget the past” thing was a little too much. Morris—and Michigan, for that matter—should absolutely refrain from a rearview approach.
But let’s be honest here. There is one thing that will always be a part of Wolverines football: running backs.
Although it wasn’t quite evident this past fall, Michigan has running backs—and good ones, too. Derrick Green will be a sophomore. As classmates, Green and Morris will likely be measured against one another.
A great Michigan quarterback needs a program-worthy runner. That’s one thing Henne, Leach and John Navarre had, as did others throughout the 1980s and ‘90s.
Team 134 had the No. 11-ranked rush offense in the Big Ten—very un-Michigan like, right? Ground woes were emphasized as Michigan crawled to just 10 yards during the first half of its loss to K-State.
Championship teams can run the ball. Old Michigan teams ran the ball. Future successful teams will have to do the same. There’s no way around that.
Disappointing results have been common over the past few years. The Wolverines grossly underachieved with Gardner at the helm.
Morris isn't the be-all just yet, but he's most certainly part of the solution.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.