Freshman Shane Morris appeared in only four games all season (5-of-9 for 65 yards and one interception) before being pressed into the starting role in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl because of an injury to quarterback Devin Gardner.
Gardner was injured during the Ohio State game allowing Morris to take all the practice repetitions with the first team during bowl preparations.
How did he do in his first collegiate start?
Shane Morris was a 4-star recruit who was ranked one of the top pro-style quarterbacks in the state of Michigan for 2013.
It’s easy see why Morris was so highly rated—he has a rifle for an arm. In the game versus Kansas State he showed he has the arm to put the ball anywhere on the field it needs to go.
He’ll need to work on easing up on his delivery for shorter routes; full power isn’t always needed. But, his arm strength is exactly as advertised. This left-handed passer can deliver the ball with authority.
Morris had a decent game statistically (24-for-38 for 196 yards, one interception) but he needs to work on ball placement and learn to ease back on the power on some of his passes.
To his credit, he showed good accuracy on swing passes and screens that injured starter Gardner struggled with.
Good quarterbacks develop a sense of feeling pressure and how to move in the pocket, accordingly. Morris had the ball knocked away when a Kansas State defender ran him down from behind—a difficult play for any quarterback to defend against. The Michigan offensive line blocked well for the freshman quarterback—a luxury Devin Gardner lacked for much of the season. Morris needs to move within the pocket and run the ball when the opportunity presents itself.
Morris answered the call. He never seemed flustered and didn’t buckle under the pressure. After barely seeing the field during the season, he delivered a decent performance in his first start at quarterback. As a true freshman, he did all that could have reasonably been expected of him. Most importantly he showed he has the tools to press Devin Gardner in spring practice. For the first time under Brady Hoke, Michigan will have two experienced quarterbacks on the roster heading into next season.
In perhaps the biggest surprise of the game, Morris broke a 40-yard run that set up Michigan’s lone touchdown late in the fourth quarter. He’ll never be mistaken for Denard Robinson or Devin Gardner, but he showed he has field vision and speed to exploit gaps in the defense.
Except when it appeared that offensive coordinator Al Borges seemed to forget that his quarterback is left-handed (calling for him to lateral the ball to his right), Morris appeared to be sound mechanically. He still depends too much on his arm strength when a softer touch or arc on the ball is needed, but the Michigan coaching staff will work to improve those areas prior to next season.
Morris performed well in his first start, but Michigan continued its road struggles. The defense let this game get away early and too many dropped passes prevented any chance of a comeback.
Kansas State is not a great team; this isn’t a case where Michigan came up short in the final minutes (Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State) or was blown out by one of the top teams in the country (Michigan State). While Morris graded out well, that's just a small consolation since Michigan lost 31-14.