X-rays negative on Stephen Morris' left ankle, not ruled out vs. FSU yet; Williams expected to start
UM coach Al Golden told reporters moments ago x-rays performed on the left ankle of starting quarterback Stephen Morris were negative for a fracture and that he has a sprain.
"It's not a high ankle sprain -- that's the [bad] one," Golden said.
Golden said the team will go into this week preparing as if backup Ryan Williams will be the starter against Florida State, but wouldn't rule Morris out just yet. Golden said Williams' backup right now is unclear. He said freshmen Preston Dewey and Gray Crow have not separated themselves yet.
"I don't think I can imagine a scenario where we're not going to try to beat Florida State," Golden said when asked if the team would try to sit Morris this week since a loss to FSU wouldn't impede Miami's chances of winning the Coastal Divisin. "Our kids deserve everything we've got to win this next game."
Golden said having Williams make his first start for UM against the 10th-ranked Seminoles would obviously be a huge challenge. But Golden said it would be a huge task "no matter who is playing quarterback for us."
"We'll assess [Morris' health] as the week unfolds, but going we're going in with it thinking Ryan is going to be the guy," Golden said. "Ryan's very bright and took a lot of reps in the spring. He'll have to rely on that now.
As far as the backup quarterback position is concerned, Golden said: "Preston obviously was ahead of Gray earlier in the season. Gray has responded the last two weeks. We're really going to have to evaluate those two -- they're body of work over the course of the season and where they are at mentally and who would be ready for this opportunity should it arise."
MORE TIDBITS FROM SUNDAY'S PRESS CONFERENCE
> Golden on winning time of possession for the first time this season vs. UNC: "I would trade some of that time of possession for some explosive plays in the game in terms of a couple passes that would have helped us score."
> As far as the Hurricanes defense is concerned, Golden saw improvement and said the reason the Canes played better in the second half versus North Carolina (173 yards, 3 points) was because they got better play from their defensive tackles Earl Moore, Corey King and Olsen Pierre and corners Ladarius Gunter and Tracy Howard. He also praised the play of freshman safety Deon Bush.
"We still left too many plays out there," Golden said. "We need to continue to work to improve that. We're still not exact in too many places, but we did a good job on third down. I think we held them to 50 percent in the red zone. We wanted to win those two areas. But we never got any deflected passes and batted balls. If they're going to sit there in shotgun and throw quickly, you got to get some batted balls and we didn't get the takeaways other than Eddie [Johnson's interception]."
> UM's defense had a better day, but getting pressure on the opposing quarterback continues to be a problem. The Canes didn't produce a sack for the second straight game and had no hurries either. The Canes have produced just seven sacks all season and are on pace to produce the fewest in a season ever.
"We're not getting the pass rush we need. There's no question," Golden said. "That's an ongoing problem right now we have to continue to address. We need guys to not only improve there, but mature."
> Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel is the fourth-highest rated quarterback in the country in terms of passer efficiency. He's completed 72 percent of his passes for 1,804 yards, 14 TDs and just four interceptions. He's also run for 186 yards and a touchdown.
The next-highest rated quarterback the Canes have faced was Kansas State's Collin Klein. He ranks 17th nationally in passer efficiency with a 159.9 rating. He's the only opposing QB in the top 30 UM has either played already or is scheduled to play against later this year.
"He is really good at distributing the football," Golden said of Manuel. "He can move out of the pocket and create. He's got length so he can down the field and he has an arm that can make all the throws. And he's a dual threat. There's a number of issues that he presents that you obviously have to game plan for and resolve. This clearly one of the best players that we've seen so far this year."
> Golden said it was a game time decision Saturday whether or not freshman tailback Duke Johnson would play. Johnson has been battling a toe injury and told reporters Saturday he's at "95 to 90 percent" in terms of health. Golden said the team had to relieve Johnson from a lot of his duties. Johnson carried the ball 14 times for 47 yards Saturday against North Carolina, but didn't catch a pass or return a kickoff.
"He really fought through it and did a nice job for us," Golden said. "I think he played 25 plays. But we had to hold him out of kickoff returns and that nature. We just got to make sure we continue to monitor those reps like we do all those guys and keep them fresh."
Golden said Eduardo Clements (12 offensive snaps, 10 more on special teams) and Dallas Crawford (special teams only) have to be ready to share the load moving forward. Mike James carried the ball a career-high 22 times for 96 yards vs. UNC.
> Golden said linebacker Denzel Perryman, who re-aggravated his right ankle and left the field a couple times Saturday only to return, is battling through discomfort and will continue to wear a walking boot on it for precautionary reasons. Golden said he's been wearing a boot for almost a month now.
"Just trying to make sure we alleviate any stress or any pain," Golden said. "Right now he's not showing up on any report as far as going backwards."
> Golden said he's seen improvement over the last 10 days from three young corners -- Gunter, Howard and Antonio Crawford. Does that mean more playing time? Not necessarily.
"Tracy was physical in terms of the tackling he made on [UNC RB Gio] Bernard on the sideline and did a good job in coverage," Golden said. "He played about 20 plays for us and some more on special teams. But I think he's making progress right now. I think they've all hit the wall at some point. I think for Tracy it was a couple weeks ago and we're trying to push him through it. He's got a good attitude right now and I really see the light coming on in terms of him learning. We just to continue to keep pushing him forward. At the end of the day, they're young kids we got to continue to teach and out of a comfort zone."