NC State quarterback MJ Morris will take a redshirt for the remainder of the 2023 season, Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren confirmed to reporters Thursday. The sophomore replaced Virginia transfer Brennan Armstrong as the starter under center after a Week 5 loss to Louisville and holds a 3-1 record in four games since. If Morris wants to maintain his redshirt eligibility, he cannot appear in another game this season. Armstrong will return to the starting role as a result.
Morris’ decision was rather surprising after Doeren sang the quarterback’s praises during his Monday media availability, telling reporters that Morris will “continue to grow and get better.” On Thursday, Doeren detailed the conversations that ultimately culminated in Morris taking a redshirt. The Wolfpack coach said he was surprised by the decision, although he stressed that NC State entered 2023 with the hope that Morris could preserve a year of eligibility and learn behind Armstrong before a quarterback change was ultimately made midseason.
“As games progressed and time went on, MJ came to me and let me know that he was still thinking about preserving his redshirt,” Doeren said. “I was surprised by that because he was our starter, and I really didn’t expect that [decision] for a starting player to want to sit back down. He said he wasn’t sure which way to go [at the time], but wanted me to know [redshirting] was something he was thinking about and talking with his family about. And after the fourth game, he was very decisive and telling me that it was important to him and his family to preserve his redshirt. And so we’re honoring that decision.”
Morris recently led the Wolfpack to pivotal wins against Clemson — giving NC State its second “Textile Bowl” win since 2012 — and Miami, keeping their hopes partially alive for an ACC Championship Game berth. In his four appearances, Morris completed 63 of his passes for 713 yards and seven touchdowns with five interceptions. He threw three touchdowns and had just one interception in the Clemson and Miami victories.
Is Morris gearing up for a transfer?
Upon news of Morris planning to end his season and preserve the year of eligibility, many believed it may have been part of a larger plan to eventually transfer out of the program. That doesn’t seem to be the case, at least for now, as Morris’ father was quick to shoot down the possibility and reaffirm that his son is committed to staying with the Wolfpack.
“No one said he is leaving the program,” Eddie Morris told WRAL. “Nobody said he is leaving the program. If he would have left the program, he would have left in January and he would have left in May. He had plenty of options.”
All eyes on Armstrong
Morris stepping aside opens the door for Armstrong to hit the reset button. He entered the year as NC State’s starter and was first off the bench through five games. 247Sports reports that Armstrong took first-team reps for the Wolfpack during Tuesday’s practice.
Armstrong struggled in his limited starting time. He was ultimately benched after completing just 13 of his 25 pass attempts for 112 yards and two interceptions in a 13-10 loss to Louisville. That marked his second game in five opportunities with at least two interceptions. NC State held a 3-2 record with Armstrong running the show.
Maybe Armstrong took the opportunity to work on his game. He certainly has history in NC State’s offensive system after building a proven track record with offensive coordinator Robert Anae. The two made magic at Virginia in 2021 as Armstrong finished fourth in the country with 4,449 yards passing while conducting the ACC’s most prolific air attack. Though the chemistry between quarterback and a familiar play caller didn’t develop through NC State’s first five games, Armstrong now has the opportunity to lead the 6-3 Wolfpack to their second nine-win regular season in the past three years.