Less than one week until college football kicks off! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.
Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus “completely bulletproof” — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.
Last season, Miami passed a lot. In fact, a bit too much, as we discussed in today’s season preview, given the fact they had two high quality running backs. But the success of that passing game — and it was pretty successful — was largely due in part to Stephen Morris, who came on strong last season as the Hurricanes’ starting quarterback. He wasn’t always putting up a ton of yardage, and also didn’t have to. Sometimes his best games were actually when he attempted less passes, and simply made the throws he needed to make in order to keep the offense moving effectively. Of course, everyone sort of forgot about efficiency in his game though, after he exploded for 566 passing yards against NC State in late September. Fans have seen what he’s capable of, and now, despite what should be a fairly balanced attack, there’s a major expectation for fireworks on every play. So what happens next?
First off, that game was an anomaly played against a highly overrated Wolfpack secondary. Morris also wasn’t that accurate. It’s unlikely those numbers are ever replicated by him or anyone else in the ACC. So to figure out what we’re getting from the senior quarterback this season, it starts with tossing that game out. Getting rid of a few less-than-stellar performances too, what you’re left with is a pretty accurate passer (58 percent last year, but at 60 or above late in the season) who has a strong arm and can take over games when called upon. He’s a leader on this young team, and one who cuts down on mistakes (just seven interceptions) and also doesn’t run unless he absolutely has to. More than the statistics (and those should be there too this year), he’s going to be the steadying force amidst a rising tide of team-wide pressure. With every win, the talk of Miami’s triumphant “return” will continue. And as a seasoned veteran, he’ll be working with the coaches to keep everyone calm, cool and collected.
He’s not alone either, though. Morris benefits from playing behind a veteran offensive line that returns every starter from 2012. Duke Johnson is a quarterback’s best friend and creates a fear of the run that should allow Morris to operate under less pressure. Newly installed offensive coordinator James Coley is also anxious to prove he can call an aggressive game, after being marginalized by Jimbo Fisher at Florida State. It’s a perfect setup for a monster year for Morris, so long as he’s used efficiently in this offense, that is. With a real shot at playing himself into Miami lore AND the early NFL Draft conversation, something tells me Morris far surpasses last year’s already impressive figures and leads the ‘Canes back to their former success.