QB Morris named starter for Sept. 1 opener

Freshman long snapper Frank Gabriel, left, runs through a blocking drill with senior offensive lineman Jeremy Lewis. Ken Rubi // Contributing Photographer 

As the August days grow more humid, the wait for another season of football grows shorter.

The Hurricanes held their second and final scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday, which was cut short due to lightning. Although it was closed to fans and the media, coach Al Golden spent the week emphasizing the importance of performing well leading up to and through Saturday’s game.

“We’re settling in now,” he said earlier in the week. “If guys aren’t ready by Saturday, if they don’t make a move by Saturday, it’s over. We coach the guys that are out here every day and the guys that are dependable and reliable. That’s who we want to play with.”

Heading into fall camp, the battle for the starting quarterback position was seemingly up for grabs. On one hand, junior Stephen Morris, considered the favorite for the role, spent the spring recovering from offseason back surgery and it remained to be seen how it would affect him.

On the other hand, redshirt sophomore Ryan Williams, who sat out last season per NCAA rules after transferring from Memphis, had emerged as a legitimate challenger after a successful spring.

But any questions regarding the starting spot disappeared after the first fall scrimmage, when offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch confirmed Morris would start the opener at Boston College.

“I was very humbled,” Morris said about hearing the news. “It’s a great opportunity for me and this team to move forward. But my main focus right now is continuing to help beat Boston College.”

Although the coaches spoke highly about both quarterbacks, most were unsurprised that Morris was named the starter.

“I’m not surprised because Stephen came in with the mindset that he was ready,” redshirt sophomore Malcolm Bunche said. “He was ready to take over the offense, he’s becoming a good leader and he’s done a great job through the whole summer.”

Arguably the biggest surprise of the offseason was the absence of junior offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson from the two-deep depth chart. Henderson, who traveled to Minnesota for a funeral and also dealt with other issues, has not participated in any practices yet this fall. His absence has allowed others to step up, including freshman lineman Erick Flowers, who has impressed coaches and teammates alike.

“They just came in and listened, especially [Flowers],” Bunche said. “It was tough for him in the beginning, because he really didn’t know anything, just like any other freshman. But he came in with an open mind, he’s listened to the older guys and he’s just taking it in.”

With the season just two weeks away, Golden emphasized the importance of being able to finish strong.

Though camp takes its toll on both players and coaches, Golden said they had to learn how to break through “the proverbial wall.”

“This is the hardest part, this is where teams can get divided with that self-preservation mode set in,” he said. “We don’t just want to survive this portion of camp; we want to thrive, unite and rise above it.”