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Sports >  UW football

UW Huskies’ Dylan Morris focusing on future and blocking out noise after difficult 2021 season

UPDATED: Thu., April 21, 2022

Washington quarterback Dylan Morris is looking to put his subpar 2021 season behind him.  (Associated Press)
Washington quarterback Dylan Morris is looking to put his subpar 2021 season behind him. (Associated Press)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Twitter is not a place.

Instagram is not a place.

TikTok is not a place.

Facebook is not a place.

Dylan Morris knows the difference. Last fall, the 6-foot, 202-pound quarterback was the unfortunate face of an offensive implosion – and thus, an easy target. He completed 60.6% of his passes and threw for 2,458 yards with 14 passing touchdowns and three rushing scores.

He also threw more interceptions (12) than any other quarterback in the Pac-12 Conference.

In an equally unforeseen and unacceptable 4-8 season, Morris was handed the reins to a helplessly archaic offense – and both he and the Huskies struggled. The sophomore passer from Puyallup, Washington, said Wednesday, following Washington’s 10th practice of the spring, it was “most definitely” the most difficult season of his career.

As Morris sputtered, the social media masses stewed. The former Graham-Kapowsin High School quarterback and four-star recruit received ridicule from an enthusiastically vocal faction of the Husky fan base, while Sam Huard – a five-star freshman and perceived savior – waited teasingly in the wings.

Morris, of course, understands the spotlight that accompanies his specific position.

But he won’t stare at the sun.

“I was off social media all through the season and still am. It’s not a real place,” he said. “People can say what they want, but it’s not a real place. Ninety-nine percent of those people are not going to say anything in person. Honestly, it’s more amusing to me when somebody says something (online), because we’re out here doing this, and where are they at?

“But I just stayed off social media. With that stuff, like I said, it’s not a real place. What they say doesn’t affect what I can do on the field.”

And yet, outside influences be damned, Morris struggled anyway. The fourth-year sophomore – who led UW to a 3-1 record and a division title in an asterisk-laden 2020 campaign – admitted Wednesday that “you never expect a year like (2021) to happen until it’s over. You’re reflecting on it and you’re like, ‘Man.’ You can’t really believe it happened.

“But going through something (like that) is a part of life. You never know what’s going to happen. You could be going really great and then do a 180 like that. I think it’s important just to have a positive mindset on things and reflect on yourself as a person and how you dealt with some things and how you can grow.”

Given Morris’ struggles, there’s certainly room for growth.

Which is where Kalen DeBoer comes in.

Under DeBoer, former UW quarterback Jake Haener – briefly Morris’ teammate in 2019 – threw for 6,117 yards with 47 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions (while completing 66.3% of his passes) in two spectacular seasons at Fresno State. DeBoer and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ryan Grubb brought that offense – which Morris described as “really quarterback friendly” – to UW this offseason.

It’s a system Morris had already studied.

“(DeBoer’s hire) was definitely exciting, especially because I followed every game with Haener, because I spent some time with him here,” Morris said. “You’re seeing those numbers each week that he’s putting up. It’s like, ‘Man, he’s really putting up some numbers.’

“After the season, finding out that staff is coming here, it was like, ‘All right, it’s going to be pretty special.’ Watching the tape and seeing how guys are running open and how the scheme is, it was pretty fun to watch. It’s definitely been exciting to run it and get to know it even better.”

Of course, Morris is not alone in that aspect. He’s joined in a three-pronged quarterback competition by Huard and Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr. – who completed a program-record 68.8% of his passes in six games with DeBoer as his offensive coordinator in 2019.

Given that success, Penix – a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2020 – is the perceived favorite to win the job. But Morris appears undeterred anyway. When asked if he considered a transfer this offseason, Morris responded: “Especially with a new coaching staff coming in and the numbers they put up at Fresno – and I love the guys here – that thought never crossed my mind.”

Still, Morris will take the field this fall in a (slightly) different jersey.

“It was 100% my decision,” said Morris, who switched from No. 9 to 5 this offseason, allowing Penix to inherit his traditional No. 9. “This is something I wanted to do after my redshirt freshman year, but then Sean McGrew had it and obviously he had seniority over me. So he got that and obviously I got (No. 9). That was my second choice.

“As soon as it opened up I wanted to get (No. 5), because that’s what I wore since I started playing sports. I’ve got little pictures of me in T-ball with a little (No. 5) on the back of my shirt.”

With a new number, a new system and a new coaching staff, Morris is hoping for renewed success. Grubb noted Wednesday that “D-Mo has gotten better at decision-making. That was one of his big faults, turning the ball over last year. I think he’s refined that a little bit, been a little bit more disciplined taking care of the ball.”

Likewise, DeBoer added last week that “D-Mo’s just been consistent all spring.”

Of course, regardless of any reported improvement, some fans will revolt. Stained with the scars of an unsatisfying season, they’ll demand a clean slate at quarterback.

They’ll huff and puff – and post, and post, and post – and Morris will not see it. He’ll focus, instead, on what’s in front of him.

Twitter is not a real place.

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