By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Joe Morrow stands out in a crowd, especially when that crowd consists of his fellow Mississippi State wide receivers.
Morrow is the tallest (6-foot-4) of the group, and has a 205-pound frame that quarterback Tyler Russell will have no problem finding down the field. He’s only a redshirt freshman, but Morrow is shouldering some weighty expectations for an offense that wants to stretch the field this fall.
It’s been a long time since MSU has had a receiver with both the size and talent of Morrow. The Bulldogs aren’t hurting for experience at the position, which would seem to ease the pressure on Morrow, but he’s so different than everyone else that it’s hard to hide him amongst the veterans. He can do things Chad Bumphis and Arceto Clark can’t.
Russell recently gave a good example.
“Joe is the tallest guy out there, he is a bigger frame, so you know when you get in a goal-line situation, stuff like that, you look for him to make some plays that maybe some other guys contribute to later in different situations,” Russell said.
Fair or not, this is what’s been thrust upon Morrow, the type of receiver MSU’s coaches hope to collect more of in recruiting. This offense needs him, and a few days into preseason camp, early signs are encouraging.
Morrow was getting open and made some nice catches during Saturday’s open practice, and he came up with a deflected pass in the end zone near the end of team drills. Of course, that was just one practice.
The coaches aren’t getting as excited as perhaps the fans are.
“The thing about Joe, he’s been really, really good or really, really bad,” offensive coordinator Les Koenning said. “He needs to get that consistency. That’s all he needs to do.
“Sometimes he’s not exactly in the right spot, but then when he is in the right spot, he makes really good catches and makes plays. That’s a learning process for him, and I think he’ll tell us when he’s ready to play.”
This month is when Morrow must prove himself if he hopes to be an integral part of the offense this season. He’s admitted that his concentration can occasionally wane, which leads to dropped passes.
For all that’s expected of him, Morrow is keeping it simple.
“Coach (Dan) Mullen knows who he’s gonna put out there and who’s he not gonna put out there,” Morrow said. “The way it is in my mind, when you can play, you can play. But if you can’t, you can’t.
“So I just go hard every time.”
Russell, whose own game could blossom with a player like Morrow at his disposal, knows what kind of learning curve is at work here, but he does see great things in Morrow’s future.
“He’s going to make mistakes; he’s a young guy. We expect that,” Russell said. “That’s why he’s out here with me trying to get better and working. We’re looking for him to make some big plays for us this year, and I feel like he’s coming along just perfect.”