Dylan Morris is more than his measurables.
The 6-foot, 200-pound passer from Puyallup is more than the testing numbers and statistics printed next to his name. He’s more than his recruiting ranking. He’s more than a purple jersey and a perpetually underrated right arm.
On Friday, following UW’s first fall practice, Jimmy Lake declared, “Dylan Morris is our starter.” He’ll take the opening snap Sept. 4 against Montana, while sixth-year senior Patrick O’Brien and five-star freshman Sam Huard watch from the sideline.
There are multiple reasons why.
To begin, Morris — who threw for 897 yards with six total touchdowns and three interceptions in four starts last fall — is the starter because he’s unrelentingly obsessed with personal improvement. He’s constantly learning … and leading, too.
“When you put that much time into something, and you work at it and it’s important to you, guys know that,” UW offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach John Donovan said. “You’ve got to be seen in the weight room. You’ve got to be seen in the film room. You’ve got to be seen studying. You’ve got to do the right thing. He does everything he’s supposed to do.
“I think guys will respond to him, because they respect him. When they see a guy doing what he’s supposed to do when he’s supposed to do it, and doing extra, you’re going to listen to someone like that. He does have some great leadership ability.”
Especially when things go south.
“He’s not easily rattled,” added Donovan, UW’s second-year offensive coordinator. “He’s got some unique qualities as far as being able to handle the bad as well as handle the good and just move on to the next play.”
That much was apparent Nov. 28, when UW scored 24 unanswered points to secure a 24-21 home win over Utah. Despite throwing the first three interceptions of his college career, Morris responded by leading a 12-play, 88-yard go-ahead touchdown drive — culminating in a 16-yard strike to tight end Cade Otton with 16 seconds left.
And that particular play highlighted another of Morris’ sneaky strengths. After taking a shotgun snap, Morris assessed his surroundings, rolled left and extended the play.
He might not be fast, but he’s effective.
“He’s got what you want as far as athleticism in the pocket,” Donovan said. “He’s not going to run a 4.4 (40-yard dash), but he’s got great feet. He’s got quick feet. He’s got good burst. He’s got what you want as far as pocket presence and footwork and agility in that 5×5 box — enough that if something breaks down, he can get out of it, get you some yards and keep the chains moving and keep everything going forward. To me, he’s got enough athletic ability where he’s a positive for sure.”
And, beyond athletic ability, Morris has proven capable of effectively diagnosing defenses — checking into more preferable plays before the snap.
It’s a positive he’s continuing to perfect.
“It’s something that goes back to little league and high school,” Morris said Saturday, in his first interview since arriving at UW in 2019. “At Graham-Kapowsin, the type of offense we ran is pro-style. I ran the same playbook from third grade to high school, so I was getting really good at understanding run concepts. When I got to high school, I was making run checks.
“It’s not as complex as this, but once I got here it came a little bit more naturally to me, because I had a background with that in high school. And I’m always with the linemen, learning what they’re seeing, too.”
Of course, at the Pac-12 level, the learning process is perpetual. Morris, who completed 60.9% of his attempts last season, can be more accurate — particularly with the long ball. He still needs to eliminate mistakes. And, with a second season in the offensive system, he’s striving to become more fluid and less mechanical.
“He was very good at what we asked him to do (last season),” Donovan said. “He did things how we wanted it done. Now he’s got to do it operationally with a little bit of his own flair, his own flavor, and be natural with it. He needs to continue to slow the game down, slow the process in his brain down.
“It’s not as methodical (for him) as what it once was. It’s more natural. There’s more flow to it. That’s something we’ve talked about, and he’s done a good job with.”
So, in summary, Morris is the starter because he’s eager to learn and lead, because he’s capable of diagnosing defenses, because he’s more athletic than he looks and more poised than his opponent.
Not because he’s a 6-6 pocket passer with sprinter speed.
“I guess being a shorter guy, I’ve always had that mentality of being the underdog,” said Morris, who models his game after former Saints standout Drew Brees. “But to be a quarterback, you can be 6-4, 6-0, 5-5. It doesn’t matter. You’ve got to know what you’re doing and be able to deliver the ball. I just pride myself on that — trying to be a gym rat, trying to learn something.”
Added junior wide receiver Terrell Bynum: “I think, just being around Dylan this whole offseason, he’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met. So not only do the players trust him now, but the coaches trust him a lot more. So Husky Nation is going to be able to see what he’s able to do now, because we’re going to open the offense up for sure. He’s a dawg. He’s going to be the guy.”