CATEGORY: FOC College Football

AUTHOR: PARRIS

HED: Correct Evaluation

By Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE - There are those who tend to make football much too complicated.

The reason Josh Morgan wasn't offered a scholarship by Mississippi State upon leaving Vicksburg's Warren Central High School?

It's simple.

He couldn't tackle and couldn't play man coverage, shortcomings that would severely limit his success as a free safety for the Bulldogs.

Or so MSU coaches believed in their evaluations.

"That just goes to show you that the recruiting process is not an exact science," defensive backs coach Melvin Smith said. "That was a wonderful mistake that we're now benefitting from. Josh has long since convinced us that he is a good football player."

Now the former walk-on is convincing others as well.

Morgan got his first start last November against Ole Miss, subbing for Edward "Pig" Prather. He responded with 23 tackles, the most by an MSU player in nine years.

His performance confirmed to coaches then that they would be OK moving Prather to strong safety for this season, and Morgan hasn't disappointed. He's showing up all over the field.

The redshirt sophomore is second on the team with 23 tackles. He's broken up two passes, intercepted another and notched two tackles for loss.

His 97-yard fumble return for a touchdown smashed Brigham Young's comeback attempt when the Cougars were threatening to make it a game. It was the impetus to Morgan's being named defensive player of the week in the Southeastern Conference.

"My tackling has improved, but when I first got here my major concern was man coverage," Morgan said. "I had never played it in my life, and I think that was one of the reasons they didn't sign me. They were worried about my man coverage, and we play that about 75 percent of the time in Coach (Joe Lee) Dunn's defense."

Morgan, a 6-foot-1, 194-pounder, was in man coverage when he incorrectly anticipated a route by BYU's Jonathan Pittman. He thought Pittman would turn in, so he ducked under the Cougars' receiver. Instead, Pittman ran a post and quarterback Charlie Peterson hit him with a strike for a 39-yard score.

"I jumped in front of him, and he got behind me," Morgan said. "Coach Dunn and Coach (Jackie) Sherrill let me know about it."

But Morgan learned from that mistake, and cancelled out the touchdown with his fumble return late in the third quarter.

Smith said the BYU touchdown was clearly a technical - not physical - error that Morgan quickly corrected.

"It didn't happen again," Smith said. "With as much man as we play, they're all going to get beat sometime. Josh is as fast as those other guys back there. When we run times he runs under 4.6, and he looks like the other DBs when we do drills.

"Josh has great eyes, great closing speed and great instincts. He's mean and he's a good tackler."

That's high praise for a guy who also played a sissy position like quarterback for his dad, Robert Dale Morgan, at Warren Central.

Smith says coming from a football family - his brother Rob was an MSU quarterback and special teams player and is now a graduate assistant - has helped Morgan develop true football savvy.

Morgan had more than 2,000 yards of total offense as a senior, running for 15 touchdowns and passing for 12 more, but was destined for defense at State.

"His dad told me he could play free safety," Smith said.

It looks like Morgan's dad was on target with his evaluation.

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