Dylan Morris can move.
That fact might not be evidenced by the redshirt freshman’s 40 time, or his relatively modest rushing statistics. Washington’s 6-foot, 200-pound quarterback is not built to beat defenses with 50-yard scrambles.
Which is not to say, however, that he can’t win with his feet.
Take last weekend’s two-minute drive against Utah, for instance. Trailing 21-17 with 2:43 left in the fourth quarter, Morris took a shotgun snap from his own 41-yard line, stepped up in the pocket, then ran to his left — all while keeping his eyes up field. Without stopping, the former Graham-Kapowsin High School standout opened his hips and delivered to a diving Puka Nacua for a 15-yard gain.
Six plays later, he did almost exactly the same thing — escaping left and buying time, before locating junior tight end Cade Otton for the 16-yard, go-ahead score that sealed a 24-21 win.
In his first three college starts, Morris has rushed for a grand total of 21 yards and a touchdown. But he’s also taken a grand total of one sack — which ranks second nationally, behind only Buffalo — and even then, he ran out of bounds without being touched by a would-be tackler.
The point being: Morris’ sneaky mobility is paying dividends for UW.
“Big-time credit to Dylan Morris, being able to see the field and in those certain situations buy time,” UW coach Jimmy Lake said Thursday. “(He was) moving to his left, to hit Cade for the game-winner. Then against Arizona he hit Ty Jones on a big conversion (moving to his left on third-and-10) and Ty Jones made a big catch there.
“But it really goes back to fundamentals and (offensive coordinator and quarterbacks) coach John Donovan. I see those drills every single day. I saw that in training camp. They’ll have defensive players go up into his face, and he’s got to see the pocket, rip through the pocket and move laterally left to right. It’s really cool when you’re able to see a drill in practice show up in a practice clip against our defense, and now it transitions over to the game. That’s what we always talk about: practice execution becomes game reality, and I think coach Donovan’s done a fantastic job with that quarterback room.”
Still, despite the accolades and early results — Morris is 3-0 as a starter, named the Pac-12’s premier freshman in back-to-back weeks — there’s obviously room for improvement as well. With Saturday’s matchup against Stanford looming, he has completed 59.8% of his passes and thrown for 643 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions. He tossed all three of those picks in the win over Utah last weekend.
Statistically, Morris ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in yards per pass attempt (7.4), fifth in yards per game (214.3), sixth in quarterback rating (130.12) and ninth in completion percentage (59.8%).
He should have an opportunity to improve those numbers against a 1-2 Stanford squad that sits seventh in the Pac-12 in opponent completion percentage (63.8%) and 11th in opponent quarterback rating (145.85) and opponent yards per pass attempt (145.85).
Besides, it should be no surprise that a redshirt freshman still has strides to make.
But the effectively mobile Morris appears capable of making them, and quickly.
If “practice execution becomes game reality,” then the best is yet to come.
“D-Mo’s awesome. I feel he’s always prepared,” said UW right guard Henry Bainivalu. “He’s always in the film room with us, watching film and making sure he knows what’s going on. During practice you can tell he’s locked in, making sure we’re getting the calls. He’s doing his own thing, scanning the defense. You can kind of just tell the difference with him and how prepared he is.”
Added UW senior running back Sean McGrew: “He’s definitely got ice in his veins, with that last game-winning drive that we just had (against Utah). But we come out to work every day in practice and I see that every day in practice. So honestly I expect him to be doing what he’s doing. That’s why he’s our guy. So it’s exciting to see him translate it from the practice field onto the game field.”