Florida International U

FIU has two question marks at QB that coach Butch Davis thinks can both be the answer

Butch Davis with quarterbacks Christian Alexander and James Morgan as they pose for a photograph at Riccardo Silva Stadium on Wednesday, August 8, 2018.
Butch Davis with quarterbacks Christian Alexander and James Morgan as they pose for a photograph at Riccardo Silva Stadium on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. ALDIAZ

FIU’s Butch Davis was in his first year in the NFL – serving as Jimmy Johnson’s defensive line coach – when the Dallas Cowboys had an epic quarterback battle.

Troy Aikman, the first overall pick in 1989, competed against former University of Miami star Steve Walsh, who was a first-rounder that same year in a supplemental draft.

The Cowboys finished just 1-15 that year. Aikman went 0-11 in his starts, and Walsh was 1-4. Walsh was traded the next year, and Aikman went on to lead the Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles in a Hall-of-Fame career.

Fast forward nearly three decades, and Davis, now in his second year coaching FIU, has officiated a quarterback battle this fall that is low profile by comparison but still important to all concerned.

Christian Alexander, a 6-3, 225-pound redshirt junior from Lakeland, was the front-runner for the job after spring practices, but he has yet to start a college game.

James Morgan, a 6-4, 215-pound graduate transfer from Green Bay, Wisconsin, won the starting job at Bowling Green as a redshirt freshman but couldn’t hold the position. He enrolled at FIU in the summer.

Davis has said both quarterbacks are likely to play when Indiana visits on Sept. 1 for the season opener.

FIU Panther quarterback Christian Alexander runs the ball during first fall football practice on Saturday, July 20, 2017 at Riccardo Silva Stadium in Miami ANDREW ULOZA FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Choosing a starter this fall has proven to be difficult. Alexander is probably a bit more mobile, and teammates rave about Morgan’s arm.

“What’s most impressed me about James is that arm he has on him,” FIU guard Jordan Budwig said. “It’s fun to watch.”

FIU middle linebacker Sage has a good vantage point from the middle of the defense to analyze both QBs.

“Christian is a dual threat,” Lewis said. “He has a lot he can bring to the table by using his feet, and his arm is super strong. He’s going to roll out and make plays.

“James is more the type to sit back in the pocket and carve a defense up. The ball is going to get there (laughs). It’s kind of hard to jump some of his throws.”

Lewis said both QBs have their teammates’ attention.

“James came in and everyone respected how he was already a leader,” Lewis said. “People trusted him and followed behind him.”

Ike Brown, FIU’s top cornerback, praised both quarterbacks.

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 02: James Morgan #12 of the Bowling Green Falcons throws a first half pass while playing the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on September 2, 2017 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Gregory Shamus Getty Images

“James was out there every day in the summer, with the receivers, working on their timing,” Brown said. “He has a big arm.

“Christian has a big arm, too. He’s very smart with the ball, knows the right throws to make. He can also tuck the ball and run.”

Anthony Johnson, FIU’s top defensive tackle, praised specific parts of each quarterback’s game.

“Christian’s football IQ is out of this world,” Johnson said. “James -- the man has a rocket for an arm. The way I’ve seen him thrown the ball in practice is amazing. James has an extremely strong arm -- like a cannon.”

Maurice Alexander (no relation to Christian) has a unique perspective. He was FIU’s backup quarterback for much of the past two years, supporting Alex McGough, who is now in the NFL.

After spring practices were over, Alexander moved to receiver, and he has since caught passes from both of the QB competitors.

“Christian prides himself on taking ownership,” Maurice Alexander said. “I feel like he’s throwing the ball pretty good. He knows where the ball needs to go at times.

“James is pretty heady. Even though he has been here a short time, he knows the playbook.”

Davis, as you might expect, likes both of these quarterbacks and loves the depth he has built at the position.

He also referenced the Aikman-Walsh battle from all those years ago.

“As much as both wanted to be the starter, Steve, who had been in a pro-style offense in Miami, was still willing to help Troy, who had run the option,” Davis said.

“It’s easy when you have two guys with great character, and they put their egos aside for the good of the team. And that’s the kind of integrity we have with Christian and James.”

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