Last month, ESPN Insider Travis Haney listed his top post-spring breakout players for 2013, guys who began showing signs of stepping forward headed into the season.
Miami quarterback Stephen Morris made the list.
I scratched my head. See, I thought Morris had the breakout season last year.
Then Phil Steele came out with his preseason All-ACC team. I looked at the quarterbacks. Tajh Boyd, first team. Well, yes. No argument there. Logan Thomas, second team. Seems a bit high. Bryn Renner, third team. Yes, he is one of the best in the conference. Jameis Winston, fourth team. A redshirt freshman?!
Morris was ... listed with the fourth-team running backs, with QB in parentheses next to his name.
So I guess I am in the minority in believing Morris already had his breakthrough season. Well, Andre Ware and I are in the minority.
Here is the thing that perplexes me. Miami is Quarterback U, right? The land of Heisman winners and all that tradition, right? So how is it that Morris barely made anybody notice after:
Settting Miami’s single-season record for total offense with 3,415 yards, breaking the record of 3,412 set by Bernie Kosar in 1984
Throwing for a career-best 3,345 passing yards and 21 touchdowns
Completing 245 passes, the second-most in school history
Setting a single-season school record with 421 attempts
Morris finished spring ball the way he finished the season, on an incredible tear. He and Renner are the top two quarterbacks behind Boyd headed into the year and I don't think that is up for debate.
Clearly, Miami's 7-5 record had something to do with Morris going largely unnoticed last year. So did goose eggs in the three games the Canes played against ranked teams. Miami went 0-3 in those games and scored a combined 36 points. His stellar running back, Duke Johnson, also grabbed a large part of the spotlight as well, en route to league rookie of the year honors.
But it's hard to ignore what Morris did in the final four games of the year, throwing for 1,131 yards and 11 touchdowns -- with no interceptions. The opposition was not the best (only two of those teams made bowl games), but his combined performance clearly gives him momentum going into this year. Coach Al Golden has reiterated that repeatedly since spring practice ended.
"I think his performance last year and most particularly the last four or five games speaks for itself," Golden told ESPN.com in a recent phone interview. "We’re in a mode right now as a program and Stephen as our leader that we have to go out and prove it. We don’t need accolades preceding success. We just need to do the things we need to do on a daily basis, take care of our business, trust our process and achieve results. The rest of it is immaterial to us. We have to orchestrate from within. We can’t worry about the external and we have to become more internally driven as a football program."
Still, you gotta think looking at a preseason magazine and seeing Morris' name listed among the running backs sticks in Golden's craw. As he says, Morris is going to have to prove himself all over again.
Let's hope more people are paying attention.