The first day of the ACC Football Kickoff is behind us, and what awaits Monday -- following what is expected to be a groundbreaking NCAA announcement regarding Penn State -- should be some intriguing discussions. UM Coach Al Golden and the head coaches speak tomorrow, and since head coaches are bona fide adults, not to mention the head honchos of their teams, they usually assert themselves with some interesting points of view (or else they get so frustrated by the same questions that they unleash a zinger here and there).
The Penn State situation will obviously overshadow anything surrounding Al Golden,who is, ironically, a former player for Joe Paterno at Penn State. The two shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence (sorry about that).
MORRIS THE LEADER?
Though there was no earth-shattering news revealed by the UM players Sunday, I did get the sense that junior Stephen Morris is perceived to be the quarterback leader -- at least by tailback Mike James.
Ryan Williams, a redshirt sophomore, is a former Miramar High quarterback who transferred from Memphis before last season. Morris sat out the spring after undergoing back surgery. Golden has said both quarterbacks will compete during the fall for the starting job.
“Coach [Jedd] Fisch, [UM’s offensive coordinator], has put Stephen in the best predicament to win games and control the offense,’’ James said. “ Stephen has a very amazing arm. I’m sure we’re going to utilize that to the best of our ability.’’
A reporter asked James to describe the attribute in Morris that resulted in his “really taking over.’’
Replied James: “Him assuming the leadership; Him understanding he’s going to be the quarterback and what a quarterback has to do to control his offense, control his team, control the game. He has taken all the steps to do that.’’
James said "Stephen is a very, very smart kid'' and "knows his stuff inside and out.'' He said Morris is "becoming more of a vocal leader; Ryan is more lead-by-example. Stephen has an amazing arm; Ryan has great precision. It's going to be a tough battle. Stephen is, like, when something goes wrong he gets in our fact; Ryan pulls you to the side. ...I like when they get in your face. I like the gritty thing.''
He called both quarterbacks "great guys. They do a lot of things well.''
James was completely impressed by Morris' display of emotion one day in mid June -- "maybe the 15th or 16th, 20th maybe?" James said. "It was a team workout, no coaches, just us.'' He said Morris brought the players together and talked "about how tired he was of losing, and how we needed to get this thing on track. It brought him to tears.
"I had never seen Stephen cry. As a team you feel something in your heart for, if a guy is doing enough to get emotional, it shows he really cares about what he's doing. We greatly appreciate that in a leader. ...The other guys were very responsive to it. Some guys also had teared [up]. They were just tired of it. We're going to get this thing fixed and get it done the right way.
"We've never seen Stephen in that light. Stephen was always behind [former quarterback] Jacory [Harris] and not really saying much and doing everything he could to help the team. Now he was assuming leadership and becoming more vocal.''
Cornerback Brandon McGee touted all his young fellow defensive backs, and said national star Tracy Howard was so excited to be at UM that it was contagious.
McGee talked about growing up in South Florida and how he remembers seeing Sean Taylor just dominating his opponents. He said he also remembers "seeing Roscoe Parrish taking returns to the house,'' Devin Hester making guys miss and Mike Rumph making plays on the ball. That's definitely something we want to get back to.
"Our goal is to do what they did, but make our own avenue.''
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN