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Arizona football: Switch to defense brings out the beast in Morrison

2013-03-23T00:00:00Z Arizona football: Switch to defense brings out the beast in MorrisonDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 23, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Arizona Wildcats were running through a drill recently in practice when B.J. Denker threw a pass that was broken up nicely by a cornerback for an incompletion.

It wasn't two seconds later that Rich Rodriguez asked in his loud voice: "Who broke that up? Was that Richard?"

Richard is receiver-turned-cornerback Richard Morrison, and that's exactly who it was.

Morrison then made sure he let Rodriguez and the receiver know it was him.

"I like defense because you can talk a little trash," a smiling Morrison said. "Defense is more of a monster. You have to be a beast. You have to want to hit somebody because if you don't, you're going to get embarrassed."

Morrison was recruited to Arizona by Mike Stoops as a quarterback, and moved to wide receiver after his true freshman season, which he redshirted. He's been an offensive player since, playing mostly wideout and even getting some practice work at quarterback last season.

But he was hobbled by an Achilles tendon injury and didn't have the impact he wanted to. Save for a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown against Washington, 2012 wasn't a memorable season for Morrison.

So before spring practice began, he asked Rodriguez if he could move to cornerback. It was something he had wanted to do for a couple of years and with one season of eligibility left, he went for it.

Rodriguez had no problems with it and turned him over to cornerbacks coach David Lockwood.

"It's totally different for him," Lockwood said. "He's been running forward his whole life and now he's running backward. The nice thing about it is he does have some natural ability. He has done some things naturally without being coached.

"Now he just has to learn the mental part of it and work on it every single day."

The Star chatted with Morrison to see how the move has been going this spring.

On if the move to defense has been hard: "It's harder than offense. But, once you get it, you get it. It's like playing quarterback to me. You have to know where everyone is and what everyone is doing. When you're a receiver, you just have to run and catch it. On defense, you have to watch everybody."

On how playing quarterback and wide receiver has made the transition easier: "Just by being a quarterback my whole life and playing wide receiver here, it's like second nature. I know what they're going to do. I know how they're going to run an out route, or a fade route. I can jump it before they jump it. It's like running a receiver route when they do it."

On what made him want to make the change: "After last season I felt like we have enough quarterbacks and enough wide receivers. I wanted to play cornerback since I got here with coach Stoops, so I was just like, 'this is my last chance, what do I have to lose?' Last year wasn't a good year for me, and I knew I could play cornerback and it was in my heart and on my mind, so I went and talked to coach about it. He told me I could try it in spring and they like what I'm doing now."

On what coach Lockwood's reaction was when he told him he was switching: "He was like 'come on, I've had quarterbacks turn cornerbacks and now they're in the league. You have natural feet, let's see what you can do.' I came out here and he was like, you can play, you just have to learn little by little the details."

On how injured cornerbacks Shaquille Richardson, Jonathan McKnight and Derrick Rainey have helped him with the move: "They help me a lot. Every practice when I'm in at left corner, they're on the sideline telling me what to watch, to move my feet. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't know anything."

Extra points

• The Wildcats will scrimmage for the first time this spring today at 1 p.m. It's closed to the public.

• Quarterback Jesse Scroggins, who had offseason foot surgery, is off crutches, but is still in a walking boot. He started taking snaps this week, working on handoffs.

Key dates

• Friday: 7 p.m., scrimmage at Phoenix College

• April 13: 1 p.m., spring game at Kindall/Sancet Stadium

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Pac-12 South football standings

Team W L T PCT
Arizona 5 1 0 0.833
Utah 5 1 0 0.833
USC 5 2 0 0.714
ASU 5 1 0 0.833
UCLA 5 2 0 0.714
Colorado 3 4 0 0.429

Pac-12 North football standings

Team W L T PCT
Oregon 6 1 0 0.857
Oregon State 4 2 0 0.667
Stanford 4 3 0 0.571
Washington 5 2 0 0.714
Cal 4 3 0 0.571
Washington State 2 5 0 0.286
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