Sophomore quarterback Shane Morris was a very highly touted recruit, earning a five-star ranking from Scout and a four-star ranking from Rivals and 247Sports. The Detroit News named him the top prospect in the state of Michigan in 2013 on its Blue Chip List. By early January in 2013, Morris was becoming so overwhelmed with media that he was forced to discontinue any direct media contact. We’re talking a big-shot, in-state quarterback who chose the Michigan Wolverines and Brady Hoke, but what has he done since arriving in Ann Arbor as one of the highest rated quarterbacks ever to choose Michigan?
Lesson 2: Shane Morris isn’t filling out the hype; why not?
Morris entered the first game of the season last year to go through the formalities of a blowout against Central Michigan. In his first collegiate action he completed 4 of 6 passes for 59 yards and threw an interception. He attempted three more passes later in the season against Michigan State, completing one of them for six yards. That was it for Morris in the regular season.
Of course, starting quarterback Devin Gardner broke his foot in the second half against Ohio State in the final regular season game and was unable to play in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Bring on Morris. Finally, this great quarterback was going to get a chance to compete at a high level on a big stage. Nobody expected perfection, but at best it was going to give us a positive glimpse of things to come.
In a 31-14 loss, however, we were left a little confused and disappointed. Michigan looked like it had no interest or business being in that game. Morris did not look bad in his first true outing of his career. He put the ball in the air 38 times, completing 63.2% of his passes, and tacked on 43 rushing yards. And even if you were disappointed in Morris’ performance, you could easily rest on the fact that he was a true freshman who had to make his first career start start in a bowl game. Moans and groans were easily dismissed.
This season has been a little bit of a different story, though. With Michigan’s offense struggling so mightily, especially early, it was only a matter of time before Morris got the call to take a crack at leading the charge. After performing in closing duties in wins over Appalachian State and Miami (OH), Morris came on in the game against Utah after Gardner was benched due to ineffectiveness. A 30.8 completion percentage, coupled with an interception, tells the story well enough: He didn’t do very well in true relief. But once again, most of the fingers were pointed at an extensive delay and inclement weather, not Morris himself.
One week later, it was Morris who made the second start of his career against Minnesota. A change was inevitable at that point, and perhaps there was going to be some newfound hope in a new quarterback getting the first ideal opportunity of his career. Completing only seven passes for 49 yards, though, it was very obvious that Morris was not ready for that situation. Obviously he was derailed by an ankle injury and then a concussion, but for a better part of the game, he was hardly effective.
Why hasn’t Shane Morris become the quarterback we were all expecting to see when he signed with Michigan? What’s holding him back? A scarier question: Is it perhaps that nothing is holding him back and he was overrated from the beginning? As I commonly do, I’ll take the bait on a combination of things. Circumstances led to our perception of Morris being blown out of proportion; his lone ideal appearance, though unimpressive, is just that—his lone ideal appearance; Michigan is working in a tough system right now as it tries to groom a dual-threat quarterback (speaking of Gardner) into something more traditional, and it’s surely taking a toll on the quarterbacks sitting down on the depth chart.
There are many factors that have led to this head-scratcher, but the fact remains. Shane Morris has been working in the program for a year and a half now, and there just hasn’t been a whole lot to show for it. Here’s to hoping this is a premature evaluation.