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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Kicking off spring

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Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

After a redshirt season spent playing scout team quarterback for ex-Arizona head coach Mike Stoops, Richard Morrison played wide receiver. For his career thus far, the 5-foot-11 junior has tallied 41 receptions, 389 yards and two touchdowns in 21 games.

Exit Stoops, enter new head coach Rich Rodriguez and an opportunity for Morrison to get back to his roots.

When Rodriguez arrived in Tucson at the end of 2011, one of his first orders of business involved the quarterback position. With just one scholarship quarterback on the roster for 2012 in Matt Scott, Rodriguez approached Morrison to return to his old position and become one of the team’s backup signal callers.

Morrison, who was recruited out of high school as a quarterback after a successful high school career, giddily accepted his new role.

“I was pretty excited,” said Morrison, who was Arizona’s scout team player of the week against Central Michigan and Oregon in 2009. “I was a quarterback at heart, you could tell when I was running routes. The way I ran routes wasn’t always as natural.”

In his high school career, Morrison threw for 77 touchdowns in three years and said that when he initially made the decision to come to the UA his intention was to play quarterback.

“He’s been a quarterback all his life, I know he loves it,” said senior receiver Terrence Miller. “He’s going to be good, Rich is a very good athlete. He only got receiver reps (in the past), but I think in his heart he’s always been a quarterback.”

Senior center Kyle Quinn said having a receiver under center in practice was a little strange at first.

“It was weird hearing his voice back there at first in walkthroughs, but he did good,” Quinn said. “He really stepped in there and hit the ground running.”

In order to get back into the mindset of a quarterback, Morrison practiced with his receivers in the offseason. But the main source of preparation has come in the film room, watching tape of a few former Rodriguez quarterback protégées.

“I try to go in and watch film of Pat White and Denard (Robinson), really more Denard because he’s the latest one,” Morrison said. “I try to see his footwork, how he threw it, how he raised, so I can do the same thing.”

White, the former West Virginia quarterback, and Robinson, Michigan’s signal caller, were prime examples of how important an athletically gifted quarterback is to the Rich Rodriguez spread option offense. Rodriguez was fired from Michigan before Robinson truly broke out, but under his tutelage, White ran for 4,480 yards and 47 touchdowns.

With Matt Scott already on the roster, Morrison isn’t expected to contribute at quarterback right away. But considering Scott’s injury history and the beating quarterbacks take in this offensive system, the possibility of Morrison getting playing time this year isn’t so far-fetched. Miller thinks he is ready.

“Most definitely, I got confidence in both our quarterbacks right now,” Miller said. “Matt Scott is great quarterback, but Rich is really good too. Him and Matt both have big-time arms.”

Scott, a redshirt senior, has learned never to take his likely starting position for granted. Especially since he already lost it once to Nick Foles.

“I know I have three quarterbacks behind me so I don’t take my position for granted. I learned that the hard way,” Scott said. “I never take my positon for granted, I’m always pushing myself, always trying to get better.”

As for Morrison, there was one other thing he had to change to fully make the transition to QB — his jersey number. Formerly No. 14, Morrison made the switch to No. 8 — the property of a certain former Arizona quarterback.

“I told Nick Foles I was going to take after him, so I chose number eight,” Morrison said.

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