“I feel like I’m the fastest guy until somebody proves something different,” Morris said candidly after practice on Wednesday afternoon. “I guess I’ll take that crown right now.”
The red-shirt sophomore from Salisbury, N.C. also competes in track and field for UNC and ran the fifth-fastest 60-meter dash time (6.85 seconds) in school history last season. Despite the accolades, Morris hasn’t attained concrete evidence of his position atop the team’s speed list as the 40-yard dash hasn’t been timed since the players reported for training camp.
Morris used his speed to churn out 1,000 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns in 2012, but honing that aspect of his game wasn’t his only focus this summer. He also placed an emphasis on adding bulk to his 5’10” frame.
“This summer I’ve been working hard,” Morris said. “I’ve been working with Coach Lou [Hernandez] trying to lift more, squat more and eat more. I’m working my way up. I’m almost at 190 right now; about 186. I’ve been losing in training camp sweating and stuff but 190 is where I want to be at the start of the season.”
Morris reached 190 pounds in July but slipped back down slightly. The diet dished out to him from Hernandez is simple yet effective. The key ingredient is to do one thing consistently and that’s just to eat as much as possible during the day.
“Pretty much it’s just eat,” Morris said. “Try to eat as much as you can. Don’t force it but eat three meals and snacks throughout the day so you can get the calories up.”
In 12 games last season, Morris rushed for 369 yards and two touchdowns along with 12 receptions for 204 yards and two scores. Against top-level competition in Louisville, Morris displayed his capabilities to the fullest by becoming the first Tar Heel running back with over 100 yards receiving since Anthony Elzy (178 yards vs. N.C. State) in 2010.
Morris described the receiving part of his game as a crucial facet to becoming an all-around running back and felt that it was a necessity in UNC’s spread offense.
“That’s a main focus point to be a great running back to me,” Morris said. “One who can catch and run because you never know if the receivers can’t get open you might have to get a check down to the running back so you got to get open and run the route.”
The 2013 season sets up to feature Morris more than it did a season ago due to the departure of Gio Bernard to the NFL. He’s been taking first team reps along with A.J. Blue throughout training camp but understands the depth chart is fluid.
“It’s a step up,” Morris said. “I’ve just got to keep working hard. It’s a grind every day because you never know what your depth is with Coach Fedora. You can be at fourth and then be at first the next day. It’s whoever practices the hardest and comes out on top at the end of camp will be the starter.”
Despite the position battle at running back, Morris has garnered a better grasp of the playbook in his second year and has shared his knowledge with the younger players on the offensive side of the ball.
One of the younger running backs that has piqued Morris’s attention through seven days of camp is true freshman T.J. Logan. The Greensboro, N.C. native may be a challenger when it comes to Morris’s speed crown, which is only one of the similarities between the two backs.
“He kind of has my body frame,” Morris said. “I’m just a little more bulky than him. I think he has the speed, the footwork and the talent to become a great back.”