Profile: Josh Morgan – WR (Rd 6. 174th)
With their pick in the 6th round (174th overall) the 49ers select wide receiver Josh Morgan out of Virginia Tech.
Josh Morgan was an enigmatic performer at Virginia Tech, showing flashes of brilliance with some sensational catches, only to frustrate a moment later by dropping an easy throw. Blessed with the size, speed and strength to be a go-to target for any pro team, only character and work ethic stand in the way of him realizing his vast potential.
A two-year starter, Morgan accounted for 79 of his 122 career catches over the past two seasons. He has also shown the ability to fill in capably on special teams as a punt and kickoff returner. His exceptional leaping ability also proved to be an asset for that unit, as he blocked two kicks during his junior campaign.
Morgan competed as a quarterback, wide receiver and cornerback at H.D. Woodson High School, where he earned All-DCIAA honors as a senior. He made eight catches for 275 yards and three touchdowns in a game vs. Glen Mills High, as he also contributed four sacks and blocked a punt. In his junior year, he passed for 987 yards and five touchdowns rushed for 898, including eight scores. He also excelled in basketball, earning MVP honors in two tournaments while playing for the hoops team.
Due to academics, Morgan spent the 2003 season at Fork Union Military Academy. He caught 33 passes for 845 yards and eight touchdowns on offense and blocked four punts while also returning a punt for a touchdown. He enrolled at Virginia Tech in January 2004, going through the team’s winter conditioning program, but was sidelined in May after undergoing surgery to repair a left foot fracture.
Morgan played in 12 games at Tech in 2004, starting vs. Miami. He finished with 15 catches for 346 yards (23.1-yard average) and three touchdowns. In 2005, he started once vs. North Carolina at slot receiver, appearing in 13 games. He grabbed 28 passes for 471 yards (16.8-yard average) and four touchdowns, as he also performed on special teams. The sophomore totaled 105 yards on nine punt returns (11.7 avg) and 67 yards on four kickoff returns (16.8 avg) while collecting a pair of solo tackles.
Morgan and defensive end Chris Ellis was arrested on Sept. 24, 2006. Morgan was charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing justice and Ellis was charged with obstructing justice, all misdemeanors. Police responded to a disturbance call along Blacksburg’s Draper Road, a stretch of bars and restaurants, about 1:50 a.m. on a Sunday after getting a report that a large crowd had gathered and a fight may have been about to start.
An officer saw Morgan run into the road and punch at the glass on the driver’s side door of a passing truck, according to a police report. He then opened the truck’s door as if he was going to assault the driver, police said. Police told Morgan he was under arrest. Morgan, however, began to back up into the crowd and refused to submit to the arrest. Police were forced to use a single burst of pepper spray to subdue Morgan and then took him into custody. Head coach Fran Beamer then suspended both players for the following game vs. Georgia Tech, citing a violation of team policy.
In 12 games at split end, Morgan snared 33 passes for 448 yards (13.6-yard average) and four touchdowns. He added 31 yards on four punt returns and 107 yards on six kickoff returns (17.8 avg). Starting 11 games on offense, he also registered a solo tackle and blocked a pair of kicks.
As a senior, Morgan started 11 of 14 games at split end, leading the Hokies with 46 receptions for 552 yards (12.0-yard average) and five touchdowns. He also totaled 276 yards on 16 kickoff returns (17.2 avg), as he added a 12-yard punt return and four carries for 11 yards (2.8 avg).
Morgan started 24 of 51 games at Virginia Tech. He ranks second in school history with 122 receptions, fourth with 1,817 yards (14.9-yard average) and fourth with 16 touchdown grabs. He had six rushing attempts for 20 yards (3.3 avg) and recorded four solo tackles with a pair of blocked kicks. He gained 148 yards on 14 punt returns (10.6 avg) and 450 yards on 26 kickoff returns (17.3 avg), scoring 98 points. He finished with 2,435 all-purpose yards, an average of 47.75 yards per game.
Morgan’s 122 receptions place him second on the school’s career list behind Ernest Wilford (126, 2000-03)…His 1,817 yards receiving are topped only by Wilford (2,052), Antonio Freeman (2,207, from 1991-94) and Ricky Scales (2,272, from 1972-74) in Tech history…His 16 touchdown catches are surpassed by Freeman (22), Scales (18) and Andre Davis (18, 1998-2001) in school annals…Morgan’s 46 receptions in 2007 tied tight end Mike Burnop (1971) for third on the school’s single-season list behind Ernest Wilford (55 in 2003, 51 in 2002)…Morgan’s 126 yards receiving vs. Auburn in the 2004 Sugar Bowl was a school bowl game record.
Attended Howard D. Woodson (Washington, D.C.) High School, playing football for head coach Greg Fuller…Competed as a quarterback, wide receiver and cornerback…Earned All-DCIAA honors as a senior…Made eight catches for 275 yards and three touchdowns in a game vs. Glen Mills High, as he also contributed four sacks and blocked a punt…In his junior year, he passed for 987 yards and five touchdowns rushed for 898, including eight scores…Also excelled in basketball, earning MVP honors in two tournaments while playing for the hoops team.
Positives: Has a long frame with a tight midsection, good arm length and very large, soft hands…Does a good job of using his body torque to get to off-target tosses…Knows how to use his body to shield the ball from defenders…Gets good elevation and body twist going up to compete for throws at the high point…When he runs with his pads down, he has more than enough acceleration to gobble up the defender’s cushion…Long strider who needs room to build speed, but is good at locating and settling in the zone’s soft spots…Lacks consistency, but has shown flashes of using proper balance and body control on his cuts, especially when he drops his weight to accelerate…Works back to the ball well when the quarterback is pressured and, while he doesn’t do it often, he can adjust his speed to conform with his route’s progression…Gets better separation in the open, as he is more comfortable accelerating when not in close areas…Has the speed to get deep in a flash, but is more apt to run straight-line routes than to get fancy with his feet…Has the ability to track the ball over his head without breaking stride…Will battle for the ball in traffic, showing no flinch when having to go vertical with defenders zeroing in on him…Has good balance keeping his feet when working along the sidelines.
Negatives: Has long limbs, but a small bubble and just adequate muscle thickness in his lower body…Gives marginal effort as a blocker, showing no desire to extend his arms to lock on and sustain the blocker…Will simply coast to his block point and takes poor angles when asked to cut block second-level defenders…Causes distractions in the huddle when he feels he is not getting the ball thrown to him enough…Needs to improve his maturity both on and off the field…Not the most punctual sort you will find and needs to be monitored more than the rest of the team…Struggles in the classroom and shows just adequate field intelligence (will run into spots and throttles down when not involved in the action)…Has very good timed speed, but it fails to translate to the field, as he tends to take a rolling start off the snap rather than explode into his routes…Despite his good strength, he does not use his hands to defeat the press and power through defenders to get into his routes…Likes to run with his head down, resulting in drops of several catchable balls, as he often looks surprised when the ball gets there…Needs to show better precision getting in and out of his cuts…Has the acceleration to separate in the open, but due to his “lazy feet,” he does not get to the intermediate throws as quick as he should…Goes through long stretches of ball concentration lapses (24 passes intended for Morgan hit the ground in 2007)…Lacks the hip wiggle, head fakes and double moves to elude the defender, relying more on his burst, when he chooses to use it, or will revert to attempting to run over the defender…Poor locker-room presence and needs to understand that football is a team concept.
Compares To: JOHNNIE MORANT-ex-Oakland…Morgan has a rare blend of speed, size and strength. He flashes brilliance on one play and then seems to disappear for long stretches. His character and work ethic are questionable and will be the major reasons he does not go as early in the draft as his talent level indicates he might. Morant was given ample opportunity to perform in the NFL, but just seemed to go through the motions. Can Morgan be following suit? Much like Morant with Jerry Porter, if Morgan does not get the attention he feels he deserves from his quarterback, he will become a major distraction in the huddle.