ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Shane Morris’ time -- is now.
Or it could be anyways.
The highly touted freshman – with a rocket arm and little playing experience – has been receiving the majority of the first-team reps during bowl practice with starter Devin Gardner sidelined with a foot injury.
Morris, who has appeared in four games this season, throwing for 65 yards on 5-of-9 passing with one interception, could be the starter when Michigan plays against Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Dec. 28, if Gardner is unable to go.
Rated a five-star prospect out of Warren (Mich.) De La Salle, Morris has been using the most of his opportunities in bowl practice and is different player then the wide-eyed freshman that enrolled June, says fifth-year senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon.
“Since he’s been here, he’s been looking, listening and learning,” Gallon said. “And that’s the most important thing you can do as a freshman. Coming in everything is just going so fast. Just being not the same as high school. It’s just him coming in and learning as much (as he can) and pick up what he can pick up. It’s been good for me and for the rest of the receiving crew to have.”
Bowl practices are generally a time for the coaching staff to evaluate the younger talent. With Gardner sidelined, it’s definitely opened up opportunity for Morris to learn the toughest position on the team, said senior wide receiver Drew Dileo.
“I think people underestimate the transition from going to high school to college. It’s so tough,” Dileo said. “Especially quarterback is the toughest position to play because you have know what everyone else is doing. What you’re doing? What the line is doing? Where the back is going? And so yeah, I think he’s done a pretty good job. And a lot of times in bowl practices these younger guys get a lot more reps. So he is doing that right now and doing a good job.”
All-Big Ten tight end Devin Funchess played 7-on-7 football with Morris in their high school days. He says he has seen the development of Morris’ passing game from a fastball thrower to a passer with more touch this season.
“He’s grown since high school,” Funchess said. “In high school he used to try to chuck (the bal) 100 miles per hour. Now he’s trying to get a little bit more control and get the timing down with us, cause there is better skill on the college level. He’s just got to be more comfortable. He’s doing pretty good so far.”
What’s the major difference between Gardner and Morris? For obvious reasons, Gardner throws right-handed and Morris throws left-handed. Gardner is more of a runner. Morris has a slightly better arm. But the way the ball comes out of the hand has been the major difference in practice so far, said Gallon.
“From a right handed quarterback it will curve to you,” Gallon said. “(Morris’) ball curves away. You have to adjust and focus in a little more on the ball. You just really got to look the ball in. As far Devin, you can just catch it and go. You really got to look the ball in for Shane.
“I just got to do my job and catch the ball.”
Whether Morris starts or not – Dileo believes Morris future is bright in Ann Arbor.
“I trust these coaches that they get good recruits – and they did with Shane,” Dileo said. “He’s a good player. One of his best attributes is that he studies film and he studies the game. His athletic ability takes over on the field. “