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Golden: QB competition will continue after Maryland; Highsmith will serve as emergency QB

Stephen Morris will start for the Hurricanes at quarterback when they open the season Monday night at Maryland.

Jacory Harris But when the Canes return home, UM coach Al Golden said the fight for the starting quarterback job between Morris and senior Jacory Harris that "had to be aborted" will re-open during UM's bye week.

"We have two or three practices during the bye week there so we'll let them compete," Golden said of Morris and Harris, one of eight players suspended for the season-opener at Maryland by the NCAA for taking gifts of more than a $100 from former booster and convicted felon Nevin Shapiro.

"The competition was really close and then got skewed toward the stretch because it looked like one was going to be ineligible and we didn't know if he was going to be reinstated. That competition ended. So we'll continue it after this game."

With Harris out for the opener, Golden said former backup quarterback and current backup safety A.J. Highsmith will serve as an emergency third quarterback behind former walk-on and usual third-string senior Spencer Whipple Monday. Golden said Highsmith will still serve as a backup at safety and play on special teams Monday.

"AJ has played quarterback for two years," Golden said. "AJ is a bright kid, can move his feet. He played the position for two years. So we'll have three ready and three at the game. Whip is smart, a coaches' son who carries it over to the game. He's the kind of guy who didn't get as many reps during the preseason, but he's been getting a lot of reps the last five or six practices. He can operate despite not getting the reps because he knows it so well and because he's a quick learner and smart."

Golden was asked who might have been named UM's starting quarterback had the competition not been halted by the NCAA's investigation. "That's impossible to answer," Golden said. "We hadn't had our second scrimmage and news started breaking and Jacory's name had been mentioned. We had to abort the competition and make sure Stephen was ready.

"Stephen was certainly up to the challenge. They were neck and neck. I think anybody on the team will tell you that. The players themselves felt whoever the selection was we can win with. The bottomline was Stephen really came on strong last four or five practices, certainly the last scrimmages and really we turned the reigns over to him all of last week and clearly this morning once the news came down."

> It sounds unlikely UM will try to appeal any of the eight suspensions handed down by the NCAA Tuesday. Golden said at the moment UM isn't trying to appeal anything and in the end, it's "up to the individual and their family" if they want to appeal.

> When asked if he felt the NCAA penalties UM was handed fit the rule violations, Golden said he simply supported the NCAA and its investigation.

"How do I feel about the penalties they got? I have no idea what the young people said, what actually transpired. The NCAA felt that was just, they reinstated five our young people and others have to serve a game or multiple games and make repayment," Golden said. "I support that and I'm glad we have a chance to move on. But I'm glad how our young people handled the situation and they're honesty. I know the NCAA has said that as well."

> Asked if he's relieved only three players will be suspended more than one game, Golden said: "I think that's fair. I think that's absolutely a correct assumption. We had five guys reinstated and five guys I believe are just serving one game. Again, I don't know the extent of the conversations or what the NCAA garnered from their conversations with our young people. But I feel that what these young people did is clearly a reinstatement case. So it's restitution of payment, serve a game and then be reinstated. From that standpoint, it's clear cut."

> As for his game plan Monday night, Golden said everybody in the two-deep will get to play and that starters will not be leaned on more than usual.

"We work under the philosophy you bring your two deep and continue to rotate," Golden said. "We'll bring our guys and rotate throughout the game. It's a great opportunity. I'm disappointed some of our guys because they're seniors are suspended for this game. But at the same time there's a lot of younger guys who are getting an incredible opportunity and I know they're going to make the most of it."

 

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