In May, quarterback James Morgan will graduate college in just three years, earning a bachelor’s degree in pre-law.
Juggling football and academics, Morgan compiled an impressive 3.88 grade-point average at Bowling Green State University.
So when Morgan, who lost his job as starting quarterback midway through last season, decided he would seek a new team as a graduate transfer, he did what you expect from such an intelligent young person.
He made a massive spread sheet with information on more than 200 colleges and their football programs. He also put his highlight tape on Twitter, started following college football coaches of teams he was interested in joining and also sent emails.
FIU, which has an opening at quarterback after Alex McGough completed his college eligibility, showed interest, and Morgan committed to the Panthers after taking a visit on the weekend of Jan. 12.
The Panthers are not allowed to comment on Morgan until he signs, which will likely happen right after he graduates in May. But Morgan’s high school coach, Mark Jonas, said FIU is getting a passer with great size (6-5, 225 pounds) and character.
“He’s not a classic dual-threat guy by any stretch, but he can move when he needs to,” said Jonas, the coach at Ashwaubenon in Green Bay, Wisconsin. “He can see over most linemen, and he’s not afraid of contact.”
Added Morgan: “I think I have a strong arm. I like to get back there and rip it.”
Morgan was part of a 4X400-meter relay team that won a track state title in high school. In football, he won the starting quarterback job by the third game of his sophomore season. He went 19-3 his last two years and was twice named his conference’s Offensive Player of the Year.
At Bowling Green, Morgan won the starting job midway through his redshirt freshman season. He started seven games and became the first freshman in program history to pass for 250-plus yards in four consecutive games. In addition, his 16 TD passes were the most by a freshman in program history.
This past season, however, Morgan lost his starting job to true freshman Jarret Doege as Bowling Green suffered through a 2-10 season.
Doege, the brother of Bowling Green’s receivers coach, won one of his five starts while completing 63.8 percent of his passes for 12 touchdowns, three interceptions and 197 yards per game. Morgan won one of his six starts and completed just 45.3 percent for nine TDs, 7 picks and 180 yards per game.
“As competitor, it’s tough [getting benched],” Morgan said. “You want to be the guy. But I have no animosity toward the program. I tried to be the best team player I could be in my role.”
After making the decision to leave Bowling Green, Morgan used his spread sheet and had interest from Baylor, Pitt and North Dakota State. But only Georgia State and FIU made firm offers.
Morgan has two years of eligibility remaining, and he plans to use that time to earn a master’s degree in International Business or Public Administration.
After that, Morgan will go to law school, but he would love the chance to play pro ball first.
In the meantime, he will report to FIU this summer and start work on an open quarterback competition that will include rising junior Maurice Alexander of Booker T. Washington, rising junior Christian Alexander (Lakeland), redshirt freshman Kaylan Wiggins (Sanford Seminole) and true freshman Caleb Lynum (Clermont).
Of those five, Morgan is the most experienced with 13 college starts. Maurice Alexander, with four, is the only other QB on the list with college starts.
Morgan will have to learn a new system, but that has never been a problem for him.
“I’m a football junkie,” Morgan said. “I love staying after practice, studying film. I’m really excited about this [FIU] offense. I have a lot of respect for the guys FIU has [at quarterback], but I’m going to compete my tail off.
“You have to love to compete. The best person is going to play. If you’re not performing, they will get someone who will so you have to constantly be on edge. That’s what I love about the position. Only one guy can play.”