Miami Quarterback Shuffle: Is Jacory Harris Losing His Job To Stephen Morris?

Danny DolphinAnalyst INovember 9, 2010

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 9: Jacory Harris #12 of the Miami Hurricanes warms up prior to the game against the Florida State Seminoles on October 9, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

There is no question it’s the top spot.

There is no other position on the field that can impact a game like a quarterback. A team equipped with a truly great one has a much better chance at success.

Lets take a look at the top eight quarterbacks in college football from an efficiency standpoint (QB rating), noting their respective teams' records and ranking (AP) as well.

  1. Kellen Moore, Boise State (8-0, No. 4 AP)
  2. Cameron Newton, Auburn (10-0, No. 2)
  3. Ricky Stanzi, Iowa (7-2, No. 13)
  4. Andy Dalton, TCU (10-0, No. 3)
  5. Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State (8-1, No. 8)
  6. Colin Kaepernick, Nevada (8-1, No. 21)
  7. Andrew Luck, Stanford (8-1, No. 7)
  8. Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech (7-2, No. 16)

What does this tell us? For starters, these eight quarterbacks have a combined record of 66-7 and a winning percentage of 90 percent, with three players among the top five teams in the nation.

Only two teams in the Top 10, Nebraska and LSU, don’t have a quarterback ranked in the top 20. Nebraska runs the crap out of the football, and LSU has one of the nation’s top defenses.

Can you win without a great quarterback? Sure, but it’s more difficult.

Miami’s Quarterback Play

Miami has a little quarterback controversy brewing in Coral Gables. Starter Jacory Harris (Jr.) was knocked out of the game at UVA with a concussion a couple weeks back. Backup Spencer Whipple struggled immensely, throwing two quick interceptions in a matter of minutes.

True freshman Stephen Morris started the second half. He nearly overcame a 24-0 deficit on the road in his first game action ever. Miami ended up losing 24-19 after they were unable to get critical defensive stops in the closing minutes to at least give the offense a chance.

In his first start last week against Maryland, he threw the game-winning touchdown with under a minute to go. It was an absolutely perfect dart to Leonard Hankerson on the left sideline. He was a hero after that one, even with his two interceptions, one of which was returned for six.

With Jacory unlikely to give it a go this Saturday at Georgia Tech, Morris has another opportunity to prove his worth for a team that desperately needs some consistent productivity out of the quarterback position.

When Harris Returns

With 20 starts over the past two seasons, Harris hasn’t shown signs of improvement, but instead regression. It’s troubling because coming into the season he was widely regarded as a Heisman candidate.

Well, things have changed.

For Harris, they haven’t. He continues to take unnecessary risks down the field into double and triple coverage. He often holds the ball too long, trying to make the big play every play. At this point in his career, he is what he is. He’s going to wow you with highs and lows.

His 11 interceptions in eight games this season don’t lie. His 54 percent completion rate is down from 60 percent last year. Sure, the receivers are racking up drops, but even if you eliminate most of the drops, can you honestly tell me he’s improved?

The unpredictability of his game is astounding. Every time I think he’s finally putting it together, he comes back with a brutal mistake. Is Morris, even as a true freshman, a better fit for this team right now?

It’s hard to pass judgment on a kid that has played only six quarters of collegiate football. But it is not difficult to see what skills he brings to the table.

Morris has an elite arm. He gets the ball out quickly with tremendous velocity. His legs add another dimension to the offense, especially when a play breaks down or there is no man open downfield. He has made a few very poor throws, specifically his last two interceptions. But as a true freshman, that is to be expected.

For a junior like Harris, it isn’t acceptable anymore to keep making the same errors, not when he has a wealth of experience under his belt.

Although we all know he has the starting job upon his return, something coach Randy Shannon has made clear, we have learned something else these past couple of weeks.

Morris brings an intriguing collection of raw skill to a position that Miami has been hurting in ever since Kenny Dorsey’s departure eight years back. What’s worrisome is every so-called “talented” quarterback who’s been through Coral Gables since then has never left this program a better football player. Brock Berlin, Kyle Wright and Robert Marve each never met nor exceeded expectations.

Isn’t improving players what coaching is all about?

You can only hope that Miami brings in someone, whether it be a new head coach or just a new offensive coordinator, who really knows how to develop quarterbacks. It is, after all, the most critical position on the football field.

Morris has the looks of a potential star at the position, and the fact he’s only a freshman makes it all the more impressive. The offense has a better look to it when he’s on the field. There is a confidence there that hasn’t been around this team in some time.

You can see it in the quick slants that he rifles into his receivers’ chests with confidence. You can see it when he drops back, sees nothing and bolts the pocket for a first down with his legs. He’s decisive.

If the young gunslinger puts together a strong performance this week on the road at Georgia Tech, one would at least think it would put Harris on a shorter leash. This game isn’t about loyalty. It’s about winning.

It’s about putting your best against their best and going to battle.


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