Will he play or won't he?
Doubtful or probable?
During his weekly press conference Tuesday, UM coach Al Golden wouldn't indicate one way or another whether Stephen Morris, who sprained his left ankle Saturday against UNC, would play against Florida State Saturday at Sun Life Stadium.
"Game-time'' decision, Golden said.
Morris again did not practice Tuesday, and is not expected to practice Wednesday, Golden said. The coach said the earliest he would even attempt to practice -- obviously, if he is able -- would be Thursday.
Here's what Golden said about Morris: "He didn't practice today. And he probably won't practice tomorrow. I think at the earliest we'll have a shot to do anything would be Thursday -- I mean at the earliest. And you're talking not pocket stuff, just 7-on-7 and things of that nature. We've got a long way to go.
"I would have to classify him as a game-time [decision] right now. So, I don't know what that would mean in terms of our ACC [injury] report. Doubtful maybe if it came out Thursday. We'll see. Probably, doubtful --one of those.
"Ryan did a great job today. He threw the ball well, practiced really well, made all the throws. We're excited about him. We don't have really two separate game plans going in. Ryan ran the whole thing and Preston Dewey backed him up today, because I knew that question was coming. So we're proceeding like that. If Stephen's healthy, we'll give it a shot.''
How do you make that final decision?
"Just how he feels. They both are preparing, they both have got to get ready. Stephen is more mental right now; Ryan is more physical, taking the reps with the ones. I'm not going to put Stephen out there if he is not healthy enough to execute. It wouldn't be fair to the team and it wouldn't be fair to Ryan. I want to make sure we're all preparing throughout the week and see how it shakes out.''
Golden's take on Ryan Williams: "He's got a great pocket presence. He's got vision in the pocket. He really has nice touch on the ball. The one thing that he does well [is] he's got a good mind; he's got good touch on second-level throws -- level two throws -- incuts, deep overs to corner routes, things of that nature. And he's long. He's not afraid to stay in the pocket and use his vision and his ability to release it high.
If you read my story in today's paper you'll remember that Stephen sprained that same ankle THREE DAYS before the Sun Bowl in El Paso in late December, 2010. And it was a bad sprain, at that. Then, after Jacory Harris threw three interceptions in his first seven passes, Stephen came in as a freshman and was impressive, despite a hurt ankle in the bitter cold. Per my story: Morris’ numbers that day in UM’s 33-17 loss to Notre Dame: 22 of 33 for 282 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. He even rushed on the bad ankle four times for 22 yards.
Today, Golden elaborated on how UM's initial goal is to win the Coastal Division, because that's the "way out'' to get a 50-percent shot of making it to a BCS game. With that in mind, I asked Golden,
"Can you talk about the fine line between deciding to let Stephen start knowing he might not be 100-percent healthy and having him sit out Saturday which gives him another week or more before your Coastal game with Va Tech?"
Golden's response: "I’m not going to have that conversation with Stephen in terms of ‘Stephen, should we sit you out this game?’ If you want to have that with him, go right ahead. I mean, that’s not going to go very well.
"I [understand]. But we all only get so many shots at this. He deserves an opportunity if he’s healthy. I’m not going to ask him to sit out Florida State for any game, to be honest with you. If he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go. If you see Stephen out there it’s because he’s ready to go. It’s not because I’m making him go, or he wants to go. It’s because he’s ready to go, and he can execute at the level we need him to execute in that game. That’s it. If he’s not, then that question is answered."
So, if Stephen is ready to go, someone asked Golden, then he starts the game if he hasn’t practiced this week?
"I can’t say that right now. We’re so far away from that. We’re just trying to get Ryan and Preston ready. I’m just trying to project for you guys. We’re not having the same conversations here. In terms of us, we’re getting Ryan and Preston ready. If tomorrow he looks better and can do something we’ll let him do something. If he looks a little better on Thursday. But he couldn’t do anything today, and we’ll see. As I said, it’s not a high-ankle sprain, so we know it’s not going to be a long time like Denzel’s was. But it’s swollen. It’s significant. I know he’s tough. I know that."
My gut is that Stephen will play. But honestly, I have NO idea how bad his ankle is and how painful it is. He was seen by a couple reporters walking into the weight room today, and apparently wasn't limping. Let's see tomorrow what happens, because I think this situation can change quickly. Maybe Ryan starts and Stephen comes in... Maybe Stephen starts and Ryan comes in...
Tomorrow is the last day we have access at UM, so we'll get back to you then.
Until then, please chime in. I know this isn't a Coastal game, but to me, FSU is a very important game -- for all kinds of reasons. I think the coaches will treat it that way.
One more thing: Golden confirmed today that Duke Johnson has turf toe, but said he seems to be getting better daily. Turf toe can be a long-term problem. Hopefully it's not with Duke. He's too valuable to this team, and too fun to watch.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN