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Arizona’s Richard Morrison takes on new role, new number, at quarterback

Richard Morrison celebrates one of his two touchdown receptions in last year's spring game. Photo by David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic

Arizona fans could see No. 8 back at quarterback this season.

Wildcats junior wide receiver Richard Morrison has undergone a number change, as well as a potential switch of positions, spending the first spring practice of the Rich Rodriguez era on Monday entirely at quarterback.

“It was a little weird, but I was comfortable,” Morrison said.

“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought. Well, at the beginning I was really nervous. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I haven’t done this in a long time.’ But it’s pretty good right now. I like it.”

He has ditched his old No. 14 number in favor of No. 8, last worn by quarterback Nick Foles.

“I told Nick Foles I was going to take after him,” Morrison said with a smile.

He’s not going to be taking after Foles too much. For sure, the new No. 8 isn’t going to look the old No. 8.

Foles is about six inches taller and 60 pounds heavier than Morrison. Foles rode shotgun in Arizona’s old spread offense to rewrite most of the school’s major passing records.

Morrison (5-11, 183) is dusting off his quarterbacking skills — remember, he was recruited by Arizona at that position out of Royce City (Texas) High School — in order to possibly provide depth behind senior Matt Scott in Rodriguez’s read-option offense that focuses on the quarterback run game.

“I’m fast and I can throw, so it’s going to be pretty good,” Morrison said. “This is not like Nick Foles drop back and throw. It’s going to be different.”

Morrison redshirted as a quarterback in 2009 before being switched to inside receiver, where he began to emerge late in the 2010 season. He caught 22 passes for 201 yards and two scores last season.

Richard Morrison

Richard Morrison caught 41 passes in the past two seasons. Photo by Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE

When backup quarterbacks Tom Savage and Daxx Garman transferred after the fall semester, leaving Scott as the only scholarship quarterback, Rodriguez needed help at the position. He brought in sophomore walk-ons Tyler D’Amore and Alex Cappellini, and he approached Morrison about getting under center.

“I was excited,” Morrison said.

“I was like, ‘I can play quarterback and wide receiver?’ He said, ‘Well, we want to try you at quarterback and see how it works.’”

That’s where the Cats are right now. Seeing how Morrison works at quarterback. He can always move back to receiver without much trouble.

He has spent the past couple of months diving into the quarterback playbook, hitting the field to throw to receivers and working on his own to get the hang of the footwork. His film study has included previous Rodriguez quarterbacks, with an emphasis on Michigan’s Denard Robinson.

“He’s going to be good,” senior receiver Terrence Miller said of Morrison.

“Rich is a very good athlete. He was actually my roommate last year, and we came out here and did plenty of workouts together. …

“He’s been a quarterback all his life, and I know he loves it. I think in his mind and in his heart, he’s always been a QB. He has a big-time arm, too. Him and Matt. Both have big-time arms.”

Big-time arm?

“I can throw it about 65 or 70 yards on a good day,” Morrison said. “I just have to get back to throwing every day and get my muscles back right.”

Spring practice No. 2 awaits.

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