Photo: Andrew McMurtrie. Central Gwinnett's standout running back George Morris hopes to capitalize on his previous success as a senior with the Knights. Morris is being recruited by top Division-I colleges and universities, including some in the Big Ten.
Running back, the position of George Morris’ youth league glory, became a distant memory when he got to high school.
He still loved the position, but the previous Central Gwinnett coaches had him playing elsewhere. No longer toting the ball like he loved, he shifted to a different mindset while playing entirely on the defensive side of the ball.
When Todd Wofford was hired prior to the 2010 season, the new Central head coach gave Morris another shot on offense.
THE MORRIS FILE
Who: George Morris
School: Central Gwinnett
Favorite TV show: Anything on NFL Network
Favorite sports team: Tennessee Titans
Dream job: Playing in the NFL
What running backs do you admire?: “I try to emulate Adrian Peterson because of his power and speed and Chris Johnson because of his breakaway speed. Those are the main guys I try to follow.”
• Rushed for 706 yards and five touchdowns in 10 games last season
• Caught 56 passes, best among Gwinnett running backs, for 658 yards and eight more scores
• Considering college offers from Illinois, Indiana, Vanderbilt, Western Kentucky, Syracuse, Memphis, UAB and South Alabama
“Last year was his first full year at running back here because he had been an outside linebacker and noseguard,” Wofford said. “When I got here, he said, ‘Coach, I haven’t run the ball since youth leagues.’ But the first time I saw him I knew he was going to be my running back. That’s before I even knew he could catch.”
Morris was understandably thrilled with the decision. Central football fans feel likewise.
The rising senior was one of the county’s top offensive players last season, putting up big numbers as a rusher and a receiver in the Black Knights’ wide-open attack. He rushed for 706 yards and led Gwinnett running backs with 56 receptions for 658 more yards.
He scored 13 total touchdowns that he wouldn’t have scored on defense, relishing the opportunity he got in an entertaining offense.
“It’s pretty fun to be involved (as a runner and a receiver),” Morris said. “I think it opens up the offense more. We don’t get stuck in one mode. We open up in different modes and attack defenses in different ways.”
The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder’s skill set fits perfectly with one attribute Wofford loves out of his running back — he has great hands. It doesn’t hurt that he has good speed for his size, but his talents as a receiver make him doubly dangerous in Central’s offense.
Wofford is hopeful that Morris can top the 1,000-yard mark in both rushing and receiving yards this season.
“In this offense, that is a huge thing to catch the ball like that,” Wofford said. “Even these days in college ball, that’s a huge thing so you don’t have to substitute. With us, we try to play so fast. You ideally want someone you don’t have to sub out. He can catch the ball on first down. He can catch the ball on third down. He can run the ball on first down. He can run the ball on third down. He’s got the size to be an every-down back but he’s got the hands to catch the screen or you can put him out at receiver.”
College recruiters have spoken highly of Morris’ versatility, which should make him a dual-threat at the college level as well. Most colleges like him as a running back, one who can be used frequently as a capable slot receiver.
He already has college offers from Illinois, Indiana, Vanderbilt, Western Kentucky, Syracuse, Memphis, UAB and South Alabama, but has a clear early favorite.
“I’m pretty set on Illinois right now,” Morris said. “I’m just waiting to get up there and take a visit and check things out on my own.”
He’s also pretty set on running back. After a few seasons away from the position, he’s glad to be back.
“He was fired up about being a running back (when I told him),” Wofford said. “That’s where his heart is.”