The Miami Hurricanes football team has an important advantage heading into the 2013 season, one that more than half of the schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference do not have.
Quarterback Stephen Morris returns under center running the show for head coach Al Golden's 'Canes.
Morris finished the 2012 campaign on a tear by racking up 1,131 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the final four games. Overall, he had an impressive season, throwing for 3,345 yards and 21 touchdowns, ranking as the fifth- and 10th-most in school history, respectively.
Morris also set a Miami record for pass attempts with 421 and had the second-most completions with 245. As you can see, Morris' track record makes him the obvious choice to retain the starting position.
But who will be his backup?
Last season, transfer Ryan Williams was tabbed as the choice in 2012 and appeared in three games for the 'Canes. Though many of his snaps were taken during "mop-up duty," Williams completed 15 of 20 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown.
Williams does, however, have plenty of game experience. He started 10 games during his true freshman season at the University of Memphis, completing 56.9 percent of his passes for 2,075 yards and 13 touchdowns.
But it won't be easy for him to earn the backup job. The competition for this spot is crowded. Three redshirt freshmen, one walk-on and one true freshman sit behind Williams on the roster.
With that being said, this really is a three-horse race in my opinion.
Two of the redshirt freshmen—Gray Crow and Preston Dewey—will provide Williams the biggest challenge.
Though Dewey was technically the third-string QB in 2012, as he was dressed for road games, Crow has jumped above Dewey this spring. The Miami Herald noted Golden said, “Gray is a little bit ahead of Preston right now. Stephen [Morris] is clearly the No. 1, but Ryan and Gray are fighting for No. 2.”
Crow's emergence may come as somewhat of a surprise, since Dewey was a more highly touted prospect than Crow coming out of high school.
If there is one glaring weakness for Williams on which Crow can capitalize, it's his unorthodox throwing motion. He doesn't quite have an over-the-top release. It's more of a three-quarter shoulder sling. But clearly, Williams has made it work to this point in his collegiate career.
I do expect Crow to remain ahead of Dewey on the depth chart this season, but I do not see him overtaking Williams. The game experience the junior Williams has will prove to be too much for the pair of talented freshmen.
Williams (6'6", 228 pounds) also boasts a clear size advantage over both Crow (6'3", 224) and Dewey (6'2", 208).
Rounding out the Miami depth chart are redshirt freshman David Thompson, walk-on Garrison Lassiter and incoming freshman Kevin Olsen.
The redshirt Thompson is not participating in spring practice because he's a starter for the Miami baseball team. He even leads the team with two home runs and 21 runs batted in as of this writing. Thompson has the tools to play quarterback at the D-1 level, but the reps he has missed at practice are invaluable edges for the other quarterbacks.
Lassiter is a name Hurricanes fans may not have heard, but he has professional experience.
Of course, it may not be football, but that's only a minor detail. Lassiter spent five years in the New York Yankees' organization playing minor league baseball and reached the Single-A level before enrolling at Miami in January.
Finally, there is the player who many consider to be the Hurricanes' quarterback of the future.
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