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What Dylan Morris Coming to JMU Means for the Dukes’ QB Room

Image courtesy of Washington Athletics

By Bennett Conlin

Dylan Morris will play for a national championship Monday night, and then he’ll make his way to Harrisonburg. Washington’s backup quarterback plans to transfer to JMU for the 2024 season, according to recent reports. The 2024 season will be Morris’ final college season.

If Morris’ Huskies take down Michigan on Monday, he’ll come to Harrisonburg as a national champion. Although he’s served as the team’s QB2 the last two seasons, Morris started for the Huskies in 2020 and 2021. 

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He’s thrown for 3,721 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions in 26 career games with Washington. Most of his stats came across 15 games during the 2020 and 2021 seasons. He has 56 career rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. 

Given Morris’ Power Five starting experience, he’s likely going to be JMU’s starting quarterback in 2024. 

Editor’s note: Thanks to Christopher William Jewelers for their advertising support this season.

Morris’ game

Dylan Morris isn’t Holy Cross’ Matthew Sluka. While Holy Cross used power running from the quarterback position as a focal point of its offense, don’t expect the Dukes to run Morris a ton in 2024. He’s more comfortable dissecting a defense and beating teams with his arm. 

Even with Holy Cross’ recent offensive strategy, Morris’ fit makes sense. Offensive coordinator Dean Kennedy worked with Florida’s quarterbacks in 2020 and 2021. Quarterback Kyle Trask finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2020, and Trask was primarily a pocket passer. 

Head coach Bob Chesney said during his opening press conference that he’d build an offensive scheme around his players.

“Offensively it’s going to be based around, ultimately, the quarterback,” Chesney said. “That’s where a lot if it starts, so you need a quarterback who can compete in pressure situations and deliver over and over again … we will play to our players’ strength, we will get the ball to our playmakers.”

Chesney cited his Assumption teams, which looked vastly different offensively from his Holy Cross teams with Sluka.

Morris isn’t a statue in the pocket, though, as he’s capable of moving around to find open receivers and scrambling for the occasional first down. Fans won’t confuse him with Vad Lee or Jordan McCloud, but Morris has enough mobility to keep plays alive. 

The addition of North Texas running back Ayo Adeyi, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2023, means the Dukes’ offense can generate a strong running game without the need for a prolific rushing threat at quarterback. Expect JMU to have a more traditional running game in 2024.

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As a passer, Morris’ talent is obvious. He’s an accurate passer with good arm strength. He throws a catchable deep ball and should stress Sun Belt defenses down the field. 

He’ll need to cut down on turnovers, but Morris also played in 2021 during a tumultuous season for the program. Head coach Jimmy Lake was fired midseason, and Morris found himself in a tough situation for a quarterback to succeed. Morris should find better success under Bob Chesney and offensive coordinator Dean Kennedy, who have a strong track record of offensive success. 

Morris has also practiced in one of the nation’s best offensive schemes the last two seasons. Even though the benefits of that haven’t been shown on the field – he’s played sparingly as a backup – the last two seasons were likely instrumental in his development as a quarterback.

Despite losing the starting job to Michael Penix Jr. in 2022 and 2023, Washington fans, coaches, and players raved about Morris’ professionalism during the QB change. He’s viewed as an elite teammate and should give JMU an obvious leader on offense. 

“Dylan is the most loyal, toughest, hardest working [player], he’s a fantastic kid and a fantastic quarterback,” Washington offensive coordinator Ryan Grubbs told The Daily. “I’m just really proud of the type of leadership that he’s provided, even in these tough moments, and these moments of transition. He’s the first guy in the building every day, his preparation is second to nobody, and I think that really takes a special kind of man.”

It’s likely that Chesney and company added Morris not just for his physical tools, but also his ability to lead the offense and perform under pressure. His college career brought with it adversity, as he played through a rocky regime and then fell to a backup role under a new coaching staff. Despite the challenges, Morris was still viewed as an exceptional teammate.

In addition to his leadership ability, Morris sold play-action passes well at Washington, which helped draw linebackers toward the line of scrimmage to create intermediate passing windows. He’s capable of taking snaps under center and from the shotgun, which gives Kennedy flexibility with his scheme. Morris is an obvious starting caliber player at the Group of Five level, and his leadership credentials make him a massive addition for JMU’s program. 

What’s it mean for the quarterback room?

Morris’ transfer makes him the presumed starting quarterback for JMU in 2024. Morris comes to JMU with Pac-12 starting experience, and it’s highly unlikely he’d join a Group of Five program with the expectation of being the program’s backup quarterback. 

That means Jordan McCloud, who has yet to officially share a transfer destination, is almost certainly on his way out. That also means Sluka is likely transferring elsewhere. 

Barring any additional transfers, Morris will join Billy Atkins, Alonza Barnett, Brett Griffis, and incoming freshman JC Evans in JMU’s quarterback room. Morris has by far the most collegiate experience of the group, although Barnett and Atkins were both praised by previous coaching staffs for their potential.  

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Evans is a likely candidate to redshirt in 2024, as Atkins, Barnett, and Griffis all have more collegiate experience and make the most sense as backups. Atkins and Barnett have started games in college, while the entirety of the trio has spent multiple seasons practicing at the college level. There will be a learning curve for Evans, and it’s unlikely he plays a major role in the immediate future.

Morris looks the part of an All-Sun Belt caliber player, and it’s anticipated that he opens as JMU’s starter in 2024. 

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