Arizona Wildcat senior Richard Morrison has been a quarterback, a receiver, a quarterback again, a receiver once more, often a punt returner, and, starting with spring ball, a cornerback.
If anybody on the team is going to be able to handle a change of job description on the fly, it’s Mr. Slash.
“If they need me, I’ll switch,” he said Monday about playing receiver.
And, pretty much right on cue, UA coach Rich Rodriguez said Morrison worked some with the offense in Thursday morning’s practice.
“He wanted to do that,” Rodriguez said.
“Honestly, I think he has a better chance of starting at wideout than corner. But it’s not like he’s going to come over and be handed a job. He’s got to work for it and earn it.”
The reports on Morrison at cornerback have been positive. It’s just that circumstances have changed.
Arizona seemed to be overflowing at receiver in the spring but lost Austin Hill (ACL), Tyler Slavin and Jarrell Bennett (left team), and a trio of potential freshman slots didn’t make grades. David Richards is out for a while because of offseason surgery. The eligibility status of Notre Dame transfer Davonte’ Neal is up in the air.
Morrison, who has been vying for a backup role at cornerback, received a long audition at cornerback in the spring, when the top three players at the position were sidelined because of injury. They’re all back.
Shaquille Richardson and Jonathan McKnight are returning starters. Derrick Rainey, the team’s third corner last season, is a senior. Reviews have been good on true freshman corner Devin Holiday.
Morrison will go wherever there is opportunity. The urgency to play — anywhere, everywhere — has never been greater.
“This is it for me,” he said.
“I ain’t got no time left. I’ve got five months to find my destiny. I’m trying to do whatever I can to be on this field.”
Morrison (5-11, 174) has 64 catches for 560 yards and four touchdowns in his career as a slot receiver. He returned a 63-yard punt for a touchdown in last year’s win over Washington. Rodriguez has several candidates, including Morrison, for that job this season and hasn’t much pared it down yet.
“Slash, slash, slash,” Morrison said of his career. “That’s how I like to think of it. I can play wherever. I’m a true athlete.”
So, in the past two days Arizona has added a pair of No. 8s to offense. There’s receiver Cayleb Jones, who arrived Wednesday after transferring from Texas (he’s not eligible this season) and now Morrison.
Perhaps he’ll change his tune now, but Morrison said just a few days ago that playing defense was more difficult than receiver.
“It’s one of the toughest positions on the field,” he said of cornerback.
“You have to be really smart and really good. On offense, at receiver, you’re just running routes and catching the ball. The quarterback is reading stuff. On defense, you have a lot of reads and a lot of technique. It’s a little tough.”
But he still knows the plays on offense and probably doesn’t need a lot of getting-up-to-speed time as a slot receiver. Johnny Jackson and true freshman Nate Phillips are among those competing for time as UA’s “smaller” slot receiver.
He might end up seeing time on both sides of the ball. He could be a three-way player if he wins the punt return job.
“Richard is a sharp kid,” receivers coach Tony Dews said this week. “If he had to move back over, I’m sure he could do it.”
It’s time to find out.