Three different quarterbacks earned starts for the Morgan State football team in 2013, and all three -- senior Seth Higgins, redshirt senior Robert Council and redshirt junior Moses Skillon -- are back.
Add redshirt freshman Chris Clack Jr., and the quarterback position is one of the most crowded positions for the program. It might also be the most difficult to decipher, but new head coach Lee Hull said he appreciates the quarterbacks' battle to open the season against Eastern Michigan on Aug. 30.
“I think it’s been good,” Hull, the former wide receivers coach at Maryland, said after Morgan State’s practice at Hughes Stadium Wednesday. “I think the competition is great. All of them are preparing to be the starter. They’re friends off the field and help each other out. So the competition has been going really well, and it’s exactly what I would like it to be.”
Higgins, an Edgewood native and graduate, led the Bears last season in passing yards (609) and passing touchdowns (seven) and ranked first among quarterbacks in rushing yards (478). Council paced the offense in completion percentage (53.0 percent on 44-of-83 passing) and had as many rushing touchdowns (five) as Higgins. Skillon connected on 40.9 percent of his throws for 316 yards and passed for as many scores (two) as Higgins.
On Wednesday, Council took reps with the first offense, Skillon with the second unit, and Higgins and Clack split the remainder. But Hull cautioned against reading too much into that order.
“All three of those guys are competing for the starting job,” Hull said. “Obviously, someone has to take the first snap, but we’ve been working them in, and we rotate those guys. So that’s not an interpretation of what the depth chart is.”
** The offensive line has been in a state of flux. Redshirt junior Daniel Onwuegbu, who started at left tackle last season, has shifted to right tackle. Senior Darren Pinnock, who started at right guard, is at left tackle, and sophomore Dominique Woods, who started at left guard, lined up with the second offense at left tackle.
The rest of the first offensive line was composed of freshman Calvin Skinner at left guard, senior Randon Key at right guard, and redshirt senior Clarence Swain at center – the only holdover from 2013.
Only eight offensive linemen practiced Wednesday as junior Joshua Stevens (Eastern Tech), sophomore Justin Haymes, and freshmen Magnus Day and Ehijele Ubuane (St. Frances) are dealing with what Hull described as minor injuries.
But their absence has not impacted a unit that Hull says has been the most impressive on the field in the preseason.
“I think our O-line is pretty good,” he said. “They’re doing a real good job. [Offensive line] coach [Dwayne] Foster does a good job. He’s one of the best O-line coaches that I’ve worked with. He’s got those guys prepared, and they know their assignments. And they’re also an older group, too.
"There are three seniors, and Dominique Woods started for us last year as a freshman. So we’ve got some experience there. That’s the most experienced group, and I expect them to be out there playing well.”
** Hull wants to establish a no-huddle offense that forces defenses to react quickly and perhaps miss out on key substitutions, but the quick tempo has been baffling to some of the Bears’ younger players.
During what Hull called an “overtime” session toward the end of practice, the second offense lined up in the wrong formation on back-to-back plays, forcing Hull to blow the whistle and stop play. Hull conceded that some of the players are still grasping the pace of practice.
“It’s a little growing pains, but they should have grasped it by now,” he said. “And that was the second team, and they have a lot of young receivers and they’re still learning how to prepare. They’re a little beat up and mentally, they’re not focusing. So that’s all just focusing.
"In the beginning of practice, we ran the same plays with the same formations, and they lined up correctly. … They have to learn how to focus, and those guys on the second team weren’t focused. So we had to stop and show them the right formations. What I told them when we brought them up is, ‘We would’ve had some penalties because I can’t stop the game and get you guys in the right formation. So you have to focus when you’re tired.’”
** There were at least four passes dropped by wide receivers, tight ends and running backs during Morgan State’s full-team exercises. For a former wide receivers coach like Hull, that number didn’t sit well. But he said he understood, as the offense tries to make the transition from a run-heavy scheme.
“We’re throwing the ball a lot more than they have in the past,” Hull said. “So all the route-running, the timing with the quarterbacks, they’re a little off. So all the dropped balls weren’t perfect passes. But until we get the timing down, they’ve got to get used to making those 50-50 catches.
"So, we’ve got to do that. But that’s coming along. We’re light years away from where we first started in spring ball. But a little part of that, too, is fatigue. They’re tired, and they’ve got to learn how to focus. Dropped balls are just a matter of not focusing.”