For Kevin Morris, practice doesn’t really start until a player mixes up the simplest of directions.
“Football isn’t as easy as you think in terms of getting lined up right or left,” he said. “Sometimes I look at the guys like, 'Really, you go to Penn?'”
Despite those minor miscues, Morris, who was hired as Penn football’s new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in January, has been cherishing his time with the Red and Blue so far.
“They’re all great kids. It’s a great job to have, whether you’re in the Ivy League or just being able to coach in [FCS] or [FBS] football,” he said. “The opportunity to coach these kids at any level is awesome.”
Morris’ job might be awesome, but it definitely won’t be easy. He has been tasked with retooling a Penn offense that averaged only 18.6 points per game overall and 13.0 in Ivy League play last year.
The Quakers’ quarterback situation was in limbo for all of 2018, and John Reagan, their offensive coordinator, was hired by Maryland as offensive line coach after the end of the season.
With all of those moving parts, it might seem unrealistic to expect significant improvement from the offense this year, but Morris has a plan in place to do just that. The quarterback rotation is gone, with senior Nick Robinson selected as the starter, and Morris, along with the help of coach Ray Priore, has overhauled the team’s offensive approach.
“What we’re doing is different because before it was a lot more on the coaches from the box,” Priore said. “We had that delay offense with the slow cadence, slow huddle, and that allowed a lot more communication from our coaches. What we’ve done is put a lot more in the quarterback’s hands to make the decisions, the calls, the protections.”
Penn also turned the ball over 19 times last season, and reducing that number is a major focus for the Red and Blue going into their opening games.
“We’re really emphasizing ball security. We’re trying to emphasize the ability to get on the ball fast and play fast, control the tempo of the game whether we speed it up or slow it down,” Morris said.
With a significantly revamped strategy for the offense, a full team buy-in is required, and the players seem to be on board with the changes that have been made.
“A lot of guys on the team really like the offense,” Robinson said. “We’re doing a lot of similar things, a lot of different things, but it’s unique in specific ways that I think will help us a lot. It’s fun to play in, too.”
Morris’ current position at Penn isn’t his first coaching experience in the Ivy League. After spending three years as a head coach at Massachusetts, Morris moved to Yale, where he was offensive coordinator from 2012 to 2013. He most recently worked at Monmouth, where he spent five seasons as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, the same job he currently holds at Penn.
To the outside observer, that time in the Ivy League might seem most helpful for offensive game planning or strategy, but for Morris, the biggest benefits actually come off the field.
“The Ivy [League] really changes in terms of the recruiting and how the recruiting goes more than it does the actual on the field coaching and the scheme that we’re employing here as opposed to any other place,” he said.
Morris’ connections to Penn run even deeper than his experience in the Ancient Eight, however. He has known Priore for over three decades, and the two have maintained a relationship over that lengthy time span.
“I’ve known Coach since I got into coaching back at Albany way back in the day, and we’ve stayed in touch over the years,” Morris said. “We have really a core group of guys that came into coaching together that are still coaching to this day.”
It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that Morris knows Penn football’s history and what he wants his place to be in it.
“Penn’s been really strong for a long time in football, so hopefully I’m just another cog in that wheel to continue to generate some championships.”
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