2013 Football: Morris zooms into second year
CHAPEL HILL — Romar Morris hangs out at Meet The Heels Day at Kenan Stadium answering questions, signing autographs and posing for pictures with genuine sincerity. He’s technically in the end zone, a place he frequented many times at Salisbury’s Ludwig Stadium. Still, Standing motionless is a bit out of the element for the explosive Morris, who was named the starting running back Wednesday.
But like last season, he’s adapting. Morris is sporting a new haircut, which he aptly calls a slope. With a 4.3 second 40-yard dash, Morris is always running downhill. Everyone in Rowan County knows that after a couple of state championships in track and helping Salisbury to a state 2A championship in 2010. After a year of getting acclimated to second-year coach Larry Fedora’s schemes, Morris is excited about the possibilities for a team no longer banned from the postseason.
“I’m just trying to get better,” Morris said. “I’m trying to win out every day.”
Morris’ most impressive numbers don’t reach double digits after a grueling summer in the weight room, It’s a good thing UNC got new uniforms as Morris says he’s down to 3.2 percent body fat while standing 5-foot-10 and 186 pounds. The offseason resumed a stellar freshman year for Morris. He came on the scene and projected a solid freshman season, displaying versatility out of the backfield and the special teams. This is his first year he can have the same impact he had a senior at Ludwig Stadium.
Morris, for once, had to slow down a bit when he first got to Chapel Hill, sitting out 2011 with a redshirt alongside SHS grad Darien Rankin.
“Looking back at it, I think it really helped me,” said Morris at Meet The Heels Day at Kenan Stadium. “I learned from the older guys ahead of me.”
One of those older guys was Gio Bernard.
Morris is one of several backfield targets for the Tar Heels who face the test of replacing last year’s ACC Player of the Year in Bernard. In a pass-happy college football paradigm, Bernard was the catalyst for the Heels, scoring 19 touchdowns and rushing for 1228 yards last year.
Morris, who runs for the track team, ran the fifth-fastest 60-meter dash time (6.85 seconds) in school history earlier this year. It’s the perfect complement to an offense that predicates itself on speed and pace. Last year, UNC set school records for scoring, averaging 40.6 points a game and finished with 5,817 yards of total offense.
That’s good for Morris, who had a video go viral on the internet with him racing a motorcycle in the spring.
Morris and A.J. Blue are sharing time with the first team throughout the first few days of practice. A.L. Brown grad Travis Riley is in the mix also as a sophomore while freshmen Khris Francis and T.J. Logan look to make an impact as well.
“We look pretty good on the depth chart,” Morris said.
Blue ran for 433 yards and nine touchdowns last year. He thinks Morris is a valuable asset to the backfield.
“For the most part, me and Romar are alike,” Blue said. “Romar’s so fast, he’s a downhill runner.”
Romar speaks highly of Blue as well.
“Both of us go hard every day and know what’s on the line,” Morris said. “Me and him are both the 1’s and we take all the 1 reps.”
The Heels open next week at South Carolina, ranked sixth in the preseason AP poll. The Gamecocks have a prospective lottery pick in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney
UNC is bowl eligible this year, a privilege it lacked under probation last season. The Heels finished 8-4 last year and had a 5-3 conference record that would have made them Coastal Division champions had they not been penalized. Instead, Georgia Tech represented the Coastal in the ACC title game.
“I expect us to be really good,” Morris said.
In the third game of the season against Louisville, Morris had an opportunity to shine as Bernard sat out with an injury. After UNC fell behind 29-0, Morris led a comeback effort, gaining 202 all-purpose yards, caught a pair of touchdown passes and blocked a punt. The Heels fell 39-34 but Morris had arrived.
“I feel like I showed everybody what I’m capable of,” Morris said. “The opportunities I have, I’ve been blessed with.”
Here comes another.