What did Shane Morris' move to receiver really mean?
At first, you might’ve been confused.
“Wait, is that Shane Morris split out wide?”
Yes, that was indeed Shane Morris split out wide. One of the three quarterbacks expected to compete for the starting job was at a new position several times throughout Michigan’s spring game.
In the first half, it appeared like it was all in an effort to set up a trick play. By the way, that trick play worked:
You could’ve easily just chalked that up to Jim Harbaugh implementing a little spring game fun. That was the type of play you’d see Michigan try out against an Oregon State just so that a B1G defense actually had to prepare for it.
But Morris went back to wideout in the second half. He blocked downfield on a play and even took advantage of some busted coverage on a drag route and scampered for a 25-yard gain:
Morris’ teammates came away impressed.
“He took a pass down the sideline, almost shook a safety,” tight end Jake Butt said. “He’s got some wheels out there. I hope people realize, he can play.”
It was only one catch and a handful of plays, but the question is still one worth asking. Is Morris due for a move to receiver?
It’s certainly possible given the fact that Wilton Speight and John O’Korn both looked to be the leaders of the quarterback race, with an early edge to Speight. And while Harbaugh has been complimentary of Morris so far in spring, last year’s drop on the depth chart didn’t help Morris’ chances of ever becoming Michigan’s starter.
Redshirting a guy who was expected to be No. 2 on the depth chart isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. But Morris didn’t just sulk and take his limited snaps last year. When Michigan dealt with injuries at receiver, Morris provided an extra body.
Friday night was more of the same.
“I think that just speaks about his character, honestly,” Butt said of Morris. “We’ve had a lot of receivers go down. Even last year, when Shane redshirted and we had some receivers (hurt), Shane would step in there right away. That speaks about his character and his leadership, just sacrificing for the team.”
By the sound of it, Harbaugh didn’t have to twist Morris’ arm to take some reps at receiver.
It wouldn’t be the first time Harbaugh took a quarterback who was buried on the depth chart and moved him out wide. Zach Gentry came to Michigan as the ninth-rated quarterback in the 2015 class. Where is the 6-7, 244-pound redshirt freshman playing now? Tight end, and already, he’s making significant strides at his new position.
Michigan is fortunate enough to have guys who just want to play, no matter where it is. That’s a culture thing. Most guys in Morris’ or Gentry’s situation would’ve transferred this past offseason. Instead, both are willing to do something different than what dozens of schools — including Michigan — recruited them to do. That says a lot.
We didn’t get a chance to hear Harbaugh’s thoughts on Morris’ switch because, as we later found out, he was busy locking down a commitment from four-star 2018 DL/TE Leonard Taylor.
Harbaugh will likely remain impartial in the quarterback battle talk, though Friday night could’ve turned it into a two-horse race. If Morris is indeed out that race again, at least he showed a willingness to help Michigan on the field in a different capacity.
And he looked pretty good doing it.