Conference USA QB Preview: FIU
If you have read any of my other CUSA QB previews, you will remember this stat I have mentioned previously, CUSA has the most quarterbacks from any Group of 5 Conference on NFL rosters as of right now. One of those quarterbacks is former FIU gunslinger, Alex McGough. McGough was drafted in the 7th round by the Seattle Seahawks in 2018 and spent the year on their practice squad. He most recently just signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he will be trying to make the roster.
McGough set multiple single season records at FIU and holds several career records there as well. He is the all-time leader in passing touchdowns, 2nd all time in passing yards, single season record holder for passing yards (2,798), and held the single season record for passing touchdowns, until this past season. Current FIU starting quarterback and 2018 CUSA Newcomer of The Year, James Morgan, broke McGough’s single season passing touchdown record. The single season record was previously 21, and Morgan had 26 touchdowns through the air in 2018, which was his first year starting for FIU. Morgan was also close to breaking the single season passing record. Morgan ended up missing the bowl game due to an injury, but if he was able to play he would be the single season passing yard record holder.
The quarterback position was a big question mark heading into the 2018 season for FIU. A year later and we are heading into the 2019 season, and the quarterback position for FIU is arguably their most stable position (assuming no injuries). Morgan transferred from Bowling Green before the 2018 season last year and with only a handful of practices under his belt before the 2018 season opener, he became the starter. FIU fans and most CUSA fans know his story, so I am not going to touch too much on it. I want to go over what makes Morgan a good quarterback, look at some film of things Morgan does well, and what we can expect from Morgan now that he has actually had a full offseason at FIU. We will also briefly touch on the depth behind Morgan as well.
**For anyone who is interested in more details of Morgan’s story, UnderDog Dynasty FIU beat writer, Eric Henry, has put out some great pieces about Morgan and I encourage you to check them out.**
2018 QB Performance
- James Morgan- 2,727yds passing, 26 passing touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 65.3CMP%, and added 1 rushing touchdown
- Morgan was the CUSA Newcomer of The Year
- Morgan led CUSA in QB Rating with a Rating of 157.6 , 3rd in CUSA in passing touchdowns
- This may be favorite – Morgan was 5th in passing yards, BUT 1st in yards per attempt and out of the four quarterbacks that had more yards than he did, three of them had over 130 more attempts than Morgan did and the 4th QB had nearly 60 more attempts
- Christian Alexander was Morgan’s back up last year and had 427yds passing, 1 passing touchdown, 181yds on the ground and 2 rushing touchdowns
2019 QB Preview
Now that Morgan has had not only a full year as the starter for FIU, but a full offseason at FIU, expectations are much higher for the senior going into 2019 than they were heading into 2018. Morgan spent his first few seasons at Bowling Green, and got the majority of playing time for Bowling Green under center his freshman and sophomore years. Bowling Green struggled as a team while he was there (and they still struggled last year only winning 3 games), and while Morgan certainly didn’t put up the numbers he would have liked, it wasn’t all on him. Without going into much detail about his Bowling Green time, the struggles he went through there certainly gave him valuable experience on the field that helped lead to his 2018 success at FIU. One of Morgan’s best traits as a quarterback is his comfort level in the pocket, even when defenders are all around him. His playing time and experience at Bowling Green certainly attributed in some fashion to his pocket presence he showed at FIU last year.
Morgan does a lot of things well as a quarterback and I think that is largely due to his calm, collective presence he has under center. He knows what to do with the ball and his pre-snap reads help him get the ball out quickly, which is a big reason why he was only sacked 10 times last year. He doesn’t freak out when his first option isn’t there, but trusts his progressions and goes through his reads accordingly. Obviously, I am not there behind the scenes, but I would assume you can attribute that largely to his film watching and overall preparedness on what the defense is going to throw his way. Even when he has a slow start to the game, he rides out the storm and trusts his preparedness and that his coaches will put him in the best position to succeed. Overall, Morgan has a good arm, confident and comfortable in the pocket, gets the ball out quick, great play-action passer, and knows where to go with the ball and how to react to the look the defense is giving him. He is in an NFL style offense and is running it well. Morgan has NFL ability and will get a shot at the next level, but for right now he is focused on FIU getting a CUSA Conference title.
Clips of Morgan
*Below is one of my favorite clips of Morgan, as it demonstrates several things he does well as a quarterback. Great play action, stands in the pocket with the rush coming his way, and shows off his strong arm here. No doubt this play attributed to opening up the field the rest of the game.
*Below is an example of what a play-action can do to the defense. Nothing crazy here, but it does enough to get the Safety out of position (#12), opening up the field for an easy touchdown pass for Morgan.
*Below is a great pre-snap read. Morgan knows the defense is going into a zone defense and knows exactly where to go with the ball. Watch the bottom corners stance as his body is turned towards Morgan, looking at him the whole time. Simple throw ends up being a touchdown.
*If you are a coach, you may not love this throw, but as a former quarterback, I love it. Off coverage by the corner and has the receiver covered in the end-zone, Morgan doesn’t care and chunks the you know what out of the ball trusting his receiver to make a play. The receiver makes a great catch and it’s time to strike up the band.
*Last clip here. This is another NFL style throw. It is 3rd and 8 in the 4th quarter and FIU is down by 8. This keeps the drive alive in a game where FIU came back and won. Great job in the pocket and throws a strike across the field for a first down.
Morgan’s back up last year was Christian Alexander. He has transferred schools and leaves the back-up position open. I don’t have a clue who will end up being the back-up, but Kaylan Wiggins, Caleb Lynum, and incoming freshman Stone Norton will all be competing for that spot. They will all have a chance to develop and learn behind Morgan.
Admittedly, I am a big fan of James Morgan’s game. I think FIU has a legit shot at the conference title with him under center. They will have a chance in every game largely due to the fact they will be relying on Morgan. I expect him to continue to develop on the field and build off his success he had last year. This time next year when I do the 2020 FIU QB Preview, I will be stating that FIU now has two quarterbacks on NFL rosters.