HYUNDAI SUN BOWL | UM VS. NOTRE DAME

Miami Hurricanes' Stephen Morris has ankle injury

 

UM quarterback Stephen Morris injured his ankle at practice, making Jacory Harris the likely Sun Bowl starter.

sdegnan@miamiherald.com

The decision that University of Miami interim football coach Jeff Stoutland has been mulling for the past month was made infinitely easier Tuesday.

Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, they are left with an unsettling scenario.

Freshman quarterback Stephen Morris injured his left ankle at practice Tuesday after defensive tackle Micanor Regis apparently slipped on the artificial turf and rolled into Morris' leg.

Morris left on crutches and later wore a boot, making it likely that junior Jacory Harris will start Friday against Notre Dame in the Sun Bowl.

Stoutland said he wouldn't name a starter until he knew the extent of Morris' injury.

``It kind of took a little bit of wind out of practice at the start,'' Stoutland said after practice. ``I haven't been able to assess this injury yet. Let me do that first and figure out where we're at and then we can go to the next step.''

UM said it would provide an update on Morris' status Wednesday after practice, which now will be closed.

Morris fell to the ground and lay on his back as assistants rushed to his side. He was placed on a table by the field and examined by medical staff. He could not put any pressure on his left leg while being helped off the field.

Reporters were asked to leave the field while Morris was being examined.

About an hour before the incident, Stoutland said during a news conference that he had not decided on the starter. ``When I tell you it's close, it's real close between the two players,'' he said. ``There might be times in the game where we might play both players based on what we're doing schematically.''

Morris, 6-2 and 183 pounds, was to be redshirted until Harris was injured at Virginia. Morris played the second half and threw two interceptions but led the Canes to 19 unanswered fourth-quarter points in a 24-19 loss.

In his first start against Maryland, the teenager from Miami Shores drove UM 82 yards in the final minutes -- saving the season with a 16-yard sprint on third-and-11, then lofting a 35-yard winning touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson with 37 seconds left.

Morris started the last four games, passing for 958 yards and five touchdowns. He has thrown eight interceptions.

Harris, 6-4 and 200 pounds, is second on the UM list for career touchdown passes (behind Ken Dorsey), with 50 since 2008. His 3,352 yards in '09 were fourth in a UM season behind leader Bernie Kosar, Dorsey and Craig Erickson.

Harris has the experience and what was once considered the poise as UM's two-year starter -- until multiple injuries and interceptions took their toll. He missed last spring practice recuperating from thumb surgery and has played hurt for much of the past couple seasons. He was hammered in the sternum Oct. 30 during the first half at Virginia, fell backward and sustained a concussion that kept him out 3 ½ games. He has thrown for 1,756 yards and 14 touchdowns (.548 completion percentage) -- with 12 interceptions this season.

Stoutland and fellow players said Harris has excelled in bowl preparation, and many expected him to get the start regardless of Morris' injury.

``To me, he's looked a lot sharper decision-making-wise,'' Stoutland said. ``The decisions he has made have been really good ones.''

Added tight end Asante Cleveland: ``He's been on fire. . . . I think he understands how big this opportunity is.''

Harris said he felt bad for Morris, ``but he's a tough dude and he'll fight through it. We just need a win. I look forward to a new game.''

UM receiver Aldarius Johnson is out for the bowl with an injured right knee sustained before this week, Stoutland said.

Tailback Mike James, whose mother died in a car accident last week, has not arrived because of storms in the Northeast, where James had to go regarding family matters. Stoutland said he should arrive by Wednesday.

Stoutland said all the UM coaches know their job status. Stoutland, receivers coach Aubrey Hill and linebackers coach Micheal Barrow have been retained by new coach Al Golden, but nothing has been announced regarding offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, special teams/tight ends coach Joe Pannunzio and running backs coach Mike Cassano.

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