GREENSBORO, N.C. -- There will be no sneaking up on Stephen Morris in 2013, as evidenced Sunday on the opening day of the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff.
The cool, understated University of Miami quarterback, who quietly set the Hurricanes’ single-season total-offense mark with 3,415 yards in 2012, drew plenty of attention at the Grandover Resort — his lower-profile counterpart, defensive end Shayon Green, softly conducting interviews a few feet away.
Morris was shredding defenses by season’s end with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in his final four games.
That’s 139 consecutive passes without a pick. On Sunday, he handled the media with an equal amount of finesse by finding the balance between embracing and deflecting the newfound attention.
Opponents already knew of his bionic-like arm and his penchant for evading defenders, but outsiders and NFL analysts recently have joined a Morris lovefest in gushing over the senior who recently beat out some illustrious company at the Manning Passing Academy’s Air-it-Out and Quarterback Challenge competition.
“Could you have snuck up before this?” a reporter who covers another ACC team asked Morris.
“I don’t know,” Morris answered. “Throughout the season, guys are going to make their own headlines. My biggest focus is just getting the team prepared for the next week.”
Someone else asked how the recent praise from NFL insiders doesn’t get to his head. Morris is rated by most as one of the top NFL quarterback prospects.
“It goes to the back of the book,” he said, tapping his head, “just like when I see everybody writing about how bad I am. You can’t really listen to it. You just have to stay focused and stay on the fact that I’ve got to get my team ready for FAU. And I’ve got to make sure that we’re going to have a great camp and that we’re going to understand what we need to do as an offensive unit, as well as a whole team, to get better than what we were last year, which was 7-5.”
UM opens the season at home against the Owls on Aug. 30, a Friday night, before meeting the Florida Gators at Sun Life Stadium on Sept. 7.
The Canes return 10 of 11 starters on offense and nine of 11 on defense.
“I just want to be perfect in everything I do, whether that be having a perfect offensive drive, having a perfect throw,” Morris said. “I want to get my guys focused on doing the little things right.
“… I think we’re really going to pick up where we left off, and I’m excited about that.”
Morris, who turns 21 next month, beat out quarterbacks such as Alabama’s AJ McCarron, North Carolina’s Bryn Renner and Florida’s Jeff Driskel — there were more than 40 college QBs who served as counselors at the Manning camp — in a competition that tested accuracy.
Each went through routes with a line of receivers and threw footballs at targets attached to moving golf carts.
Morris said he was “6 for 6” from “20 yards, 30 yards, 50 yards” and so on. “It changed a lot of things,” he said. “I think the biggest thing for me was to get that exposure. It helped me out tremendously.”
Now a sturdy 6-2 and 214 pounds, Morris said he has been working daily with his teammates, including freshman newcomer Kevin Olsen, the younger brother of former UM tight end Greg Olsen.
“He is an amazing talent,” Morris said. “My biggest thing is to teach these young guys.”
Green, 6-3 and 262 pounds, said he, too, is ready to bring his game to a new level and hopefully lift a defense that ended near the bottom of most NCAA statistical categories.
“Getting to the quarterback has been our biggest issue,” said Green, who led the team with 67 tackles but had no sacks. “We have to learn from our mistakes.”