Veteran Speed

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Romar Morris was sidelined with a meniscus injury in spring ball while T.J. Logan and Elijah Hood soaked up all of headlines at UNC’s loaded running back position. The junior is now healthy and possesses certain intangibles his counterparts lack, namely age and experience.

Morris, a red-shirt junior hailing from Salisbury, N.C., was cleared medically at the start of the first summer session in May to start offseason workouts.

“He’s another one of those workout warriors this summer that impressed Lou [Hernandez],” UNC head coach Larry Fedora told reporters earlier this week. “He’s prepared himself and he’s ready to go… There’s no doubt he’s going to help us this season.”

Morris checks in at 5-foot-10 and 193 pounds, boasting a body fat percentage that’s likely lower than his 4.3 40-yard dash time. His speed is well known – he clocked a 6.85 60-meter dash during track season in 2013, the fifth-fastest time in school history – and now provides a veteran presence in a backfield loaded with freshmen and sophomores.

He's currently splitting reps with the first team in practice.

“I think I can bring leadership because I’ve been here – this is my fourth year – and I’ve seen great backs from Ryan Houston to Gio Bernard to A.J. Blue,” Morris said. “I’ve seen great backs come and go and I think that I’ve learned a lot from them just being in their shadows the last three years. And then offensively, I feel like I can be a spark plug. I can bring energy to the running corps. They feed off my energy and we all start making big plays.”

Morris has appeared in 24 games (five starts) during his UNC career, missing only the East Carolina loss last fall due to injury. He rushed for 296 yards and five touchdowns on a 4.9-yards-per-carry average in 2013, while also catching 12 passed for 63 yards. That latter attribute, paired with his track speed, made Morris – along with Logan - a candidate to learn the A-back position this offseason.

“In practice, we’ve been running at the A position quite a few times,” Morris said. “We’ve even scored touchdowns from the A position in practice, so the coaches are liking what they’ve seen out of that position. We can use our speed on the edge, so they’re trying to give us the ball in space and let us make something happen.”

Morris said that the actual transition between plays, not the blocking or route running, has proven to be the toughest aspect of learning the new position.

“One play you might be at running back, the next play you might go to A and then the next play you go back to running back,” Morris said. “So you’ve got to be mentally focused at all times.”

Morris laughed when asked if he could best Logan in a foot race, only saying that the track meet would be “pretty even.” Those speed options have paired well thus with Hood’s bruising style and sophomore Khris Francis’s versatility.

“I’ve see a lot of toughness and physicality out of him,” Morris said of Hood. “He’s the biggest back we’ve got right now besides the fullbacks. He brings a lot of size and toughness, so he’s just a different type of back from T.J and me. And then Khris is a different type of back, too, so we have four different backs that can all do different things.”

Morris could also factor in at kick return following T.J. Thorpe’s foot injury. He returned 17 kickoffs for 399 yards in 2012.

 

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