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By Kerry Eggers/Portland Tribune/'I have to get in there and play,' says injury plagued veteran from Sherwood

MORRISCORVALLIS — Twenty months ago, David Morris was on a magic carpet ride in college football.

As a freshman safety, the Sherwood High grad burst onto the scene for Oregon State early in the 2017 season, starting seven games and tying for second in most tackles on the team at season's end.

In an early home loss to Minnesota, Morris registered 17 total tackles — most for a Pac-12 freshman that season. Gary Andersen, then OSU's head coach, singled him out as a player with NFL potential.

But Morris broke a bone in his right foot in the offseason. Then he broke a bone in the other foot prior to training camp, causing him to miss the 2018 season. Then he strained his left hamstring during the winter of 2019, which kept him out of spring practice. Then this summer, he strained the right hamstring, "probably from overcompensating after I strained the left one."

Morris is back practicing and is hopeful the issue will be cleared up over time as he prepares for Oregon State's season opener next Friday at 7:30 p.m. against Oklahoma State at Reser Stadium.

"I'm continuing to get better," Morris said Tuesday. "I can't say I'm 100 percent, but I can get out there run and jump and do most of the things I need to do. I'm feeling good right now.

"I'm trying hard to get through this. I'm constantly running, jumping and using my hamstring, so I'm not getting a lot of break time, but the season is close. I'm going to push through and do the best I can. As of now, I'm ready to play against Oklahoma State. I've been held out for too long. I have to get in there and play."

Senior safety Jalen Moore also is dealing with a hamstring injury, leaving the Beavers hamstrung — sorry, bad pun — with their two most legitimate starters at the position not fully healthy.

In four years at Sherwood, Morris missed one game due to injury. When he had to sit out the entire 2018 season, "it was devastating," he said.

But he tried to make the most of the situation by observing Tim Tibesar's defensive schemes from the sidelines. Now that he's back practicing, he believes the discovery period has paid dividends.

"I thought I had a pretty grasp of our defense from last year, but when I got back onto the field and started going through the plays, things started really clicking for me," he said. "I play a lot faster than I did my freshman year. I'm not thinking as much. It's helped me to play as fast as I can with the knowledge that I've gained."

As a freshman, the 6-3 Morris weighed 185 pounds, with 10 to 12 percent body fat. Now he's at 210 with eight percent body fat.

"This is where our strength coaches want me," he said. "Now I'm trying to show them what I can do on the field.

"My straight-on speed is good. My quickness has been affected by my injuries. I'm still a little tentative to push off with my feet, but I'm getting more comfortable with that every practice. Now I'm cutting and planting and doing all the things I'm expected to do."

Morris has spent more time than he'd like in the Beavers' training room over the past year, in recent weeks getting his injured hamstring "scraped, cupped and iced. I'm in there every time it's open. I want to fix it and prevent it from happening again."

Morris said after he injured a hamstring the first time, he drove regularly to the Portland area, where he underwent "laser-light therapy" on the leg.

"It moves your cells more rapidly to cause more rapid healing," he said. "(The left hamstring) got significantly better after treatments. I haven't been able to use it on my right one because I haven't been able to get home."

Morris wants badly to be part of an Oregon State defense that he believes will be much improved from the on-field product of a year ago.

"Every practice, the D-linemen are taking care of things up front," he said. "So it's our job to take care of the (secondary). Last year, I noticed the opposite was true — we had to take care of the front, too. We're definitely improved as a total defense this year. I'm really excited about where we're headed."

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