There is a great debate raging right now in Coral Gables, and it is obvious that it would come to this at some point when Jacory Harris was injured. Stephen Morris has played like a veteran out there in the game and a half of action he now has under his belt. Of course, he made some freshman mistakes, but the overall body of work is very promising.
But even with that being said, those performances were against Virginia and Maryland, and the quality of competition has to be taken into account. Maryland is having a good season, and let’s face it, playing Miami was Virginia’s bowl game for the year and they pushed all their chips in the middle and lucked out. As expected people are making knee jerk suggestions that Stephen Morris should be the starter, and Jacory Harris is done at Miami.
First of all, it is easy to see that Harris has not played his best football this season, and there are times where he looked like he has regressed in his development. But, this player has led the Miami Hurricanes to a lot of wins since he has been the starter, to the point where he was being mentioned in the Heisman trophy conversation.
Although some of the blame should fall on Harris, there is plenty of blame to go around that contributed to losses. Miami receivers have dropped plenty of passes this year, and there are times where the offensive line has not been stellar.
Many will point to Harris as the number two problem next to Randy Shannon, but the real problem lies in one simple word “approach.” Mark Whipple’s approach to the game plan on offense has been the cause of many of the other issues that have plagued this team. It seems like Whipple has given Harris a pass to throw the ball deep almost every play, and he calls plays with multiple deep routes, which encourage Harris to go for the big play.
Longer and deeper routes lead to lineman having to hold their block longer, which leads to false start and holding penalties as the lineman try to get an edge. Add in the fact that Miami does nothing with snap count or cadence change when they drop back almost 40 times a game, and you have defenders timing the snap count almost perfectly.
Enter Stephen Morris, and all of a sudden Whipple decides he is not comfortable with a true freshman throwing the ball deep like Harris. So, Whipple changes his play calling and emphasizes the running game against Maryland to the tune of 49 carries, and he called shallow to intermediate routes sprinkled in with play action passes to keep the defense off balance.
This enabled Miami to move the ball against Maryland almost at will, yet they just kept stalling and settling for field goal attempts. If Whipple took this same approach with Jacory Harris and called less deep routes, you would see similar or better results potentially. Whipple needs to dispense with the idea that Harris is an extension of the coach on the field; Harris takes too many unnecessary risks at inopportune times.
So before the fans go crowning Stephen Morris as the next great savior, they need to realize that if Whipple gets pass happy again, we could be headed down the same path. If Morris wins the job, hopefully he will play within himself, and use his feet to scramble when he gets out of trouble rather than making errant throws.
One thing is for sure: Morris brings another dimension to the game that Harris does not have, and if Whipple can stay committed to the run, this team may be able to salvage the season after all.