Southridge senior hopes to thrive at UA

Long before the University of Arizona revealed significant interest in recruiting Jordan Morgan, the Wildcats were on the radar of the Southridge wide receiver.

Morgan didn't start watching college football until the age of 14, but he always used Arizona when he and his buddies played EA Sports' NCAA football video game. The way the Wildcats chucked the ball all over the lot, pushed the pace and scored with ease left a lasting impression on the youngster as he blossomed into a bonafide Division One prospect.

“I just loved how they passed the ball and all the plays they had,” Morgan recalled. “I always picked Arizona. They were my team every time, and that's when I started liking 'em.”

Morgan said he had nine offers from potential suitors, but Arizona was one of his “dream schools.” When they offered early in the process, he promptly verbally committed. Morgan plans on majoring in entrepreneurship and business management and said Arizona's business school is one of the best in the country. The combination of operating out of the spread offense, the ideal sunny weather and Arizona's academic prestige all played to what Morgan sought out in a university.

“Everybody down there is real with you,” Morgan said of Arizona. “They're family, and they're welcoming. I felt like it fit me, they treated me like I was part of their family. I think it's the perfect place for me. I love it there.”by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge wide receiver Jordan Morgan committed to the University of Arizona, citing the Wildcats family atmosphere and spread offense.

Ultimate deep threat

A lot has changed in Tucson since U of A first fancied itself to the Skyhawk senior, but Morgan's affinity for the school never wavered.

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez is in the middle of a massive overhaul down south, trying to incorporate a hurry-up spread offense that thrived during his time at West Virginia but failed when he implemented it at Michigan. Rodriguez puts a premium on speed demons like Morgan, who keep defenses honest and help open lanes for the running backs. Morgan said Rodriguez embraced him from the beginning and made him feel at ease about moving away from home.

“He's like a super dad,” said Morgan of Rodriguez. “He just welcomes everybody and sets up a family atmosphere. He's changing everything down there.”

Arizona commit and fellow wide receiver Cameron Denson played a substantial role in wooing Morgan to the desert. Denson, a 6'1” speedster from Tucson sold Morgan on teaming up in hopes of tearing up the Pac-12 and brining a much needed dose of velocity to Rodriguez's spread attack. The Wildcats posses a potential star signal caller in freshman Anu Solomon — a dual threat quarterback tailor made for the spread — and now they boast the ultimate deep threat in Morgan.

Standing 6'2” and weighing 196 pounds, Morgan is sufficiently sinewy to escape the initial jam at the line of scrimmage, but it's his speed that places him amongst the top 100 receivers in the country. At the Nike Camp in Eugene, Morgan ran a 4.47, putting to rest any qualms about his ability to go deep consistently. Couple that acceleration with a surreal smoothness and an acute attention to running routes and it's a hair-raising combination for Metro defensive coordinators to halt.

Morgan can undress defensive backs with a sudden eloquence and speed that requires extra attention. He'll attract at least two defenders on Friday nights, which will allow other receivers to get single coverage and exploit other weaknesses on the gridiron.

“Any time you have a threat who can score any time they touch the ball, that's huge in any offense,” said Southridge head coach Doug Dean. “He brings that to the table. He's a great athlete, and any time you have that at wide receiver, that's going to make defenses take recognition.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Skyhawk pass catcher Jordan Morgan can hit the home run or go over the middle in traffic for Southridge.

Focused on state

Coming off a second-team all-state season in which Morgan caught 35 passes for 973 yards and nine touchdowns, schools along the West Coast started blowing up the pass catcher's cellphone with curiosity. Many kids who grow up in Oregon dream of one day wearing the yellow and green of the University of Oregon, and Morgan was no different. He even attended a bunch of the Ducks' home games on the UO's dime and kindled their attentiveness further by burning one of the Ducks' 2014 defensive back verbal commits at a Nike football camp in Eugene.

In April, however, Arizona was the first major school to offer for Morgan, who said he liked seeing what every prospective school had to propose, but ultimately became tired of being courted.

Morgan wanted to get the college decision out of the way so he could focus on his primary goal: winning a 6A state championship. The 400-pound bench pressing Devin Martinez returns at running back along with Jacob Pruit in the backfield. They'll bring the opposing safeties closer to the box and allow Morgan to rip the top off the pass coverage.

Morgan's cellphone doesn't ring as much with coaches trying to sway him out of his Arizona allegiance, though that could change with a monster senior season. All his current efforts are centered on this year's Southridge squad, which the 2012 All-Metro pick believes is good enough to do historic things.

“I just want to win state. That's the only thing I care about,” said Morgan. “I don't even know how many touchdowns or yards I had last year, I just want to win state. That's the most fun thing, when we're winning games. It's better than when you're scoring six touchdowns and losing.”

Bright future

After surprising the state by beating out Jesuit for the Metro crown and reaching the state quarterfinals, Morgan and the Skyhawks are fixed on reaching JELD-WEN Field, the site of the state title game. Southridge will get a great barometer on how potentially good they could be when defending 6A state champ Sheldon comes to town for week one. Morgan said he was in the bleachers as an eighth-grader cheering on the Skyhawks when they won the 2008 state championship. He's looking for a ring of his own, another banner to put up above Southridge's football field.

“Hopefully we'll make it there, and I have a good feeling we will,” said Morgan. “I think this is the team that can do it, that we have what it takes to win state.”

Dean said Southridge obviously wants to get the ball in their best playmaker's hands, but how they deploy Morgan will depend on the rest of the team's strengths.

“It'll be determined on how they (Southridge) develops and fall into place,” said Dean. “Jordan could be as good as he wants to be. He's a tremendous talent with a bright future ahead of him. It's always fun to have kids that move on to college programs that you can watch and follow and say, 'Hey, he was part of our family'.”

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