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Notre Dame Football

Benjamin Morrison Looks to Build Upon Freshman All-American Campaign in 2023

June 21, 2023
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Last fall, cornerback Benjamin Morrison quickly became a household name among Fighting Irish fans. The true freshman secured six interceptions, including a 96-yard pick-six against No. 4 Clemson. 

On his 367 coverage snaps, he suffocated receivers. Opposing quarterbacks produced a 29.2 NFL passer rating when throwing Morrison’s way, which ranked fourth among college football cornerbacks with at least 250 coverage snaps.

Last December, Morrison garnered freshman All-American honors from at least half a dozen publications, including ESPN and the Football Writers Association of America.

The recognition continues. Several outlets named Morrison to their preseason All-American teams this summer. He’s rated as the fourth-best cornerback in college football heading into the fall.

Those around the program feel the rising sophomore could take his game to a higher level in 2023, especially given his dedication to the minute details of his craft.

“Corner is so technical that you always want to grow detail-wise, release-wise, route recognition-wise, things of that nature,” Notre Dame cornerback coach Mike Mickens said. “That’s what we’ve been focusing on. He understands that’s the expectation. 

“He’s a very competitive kid, a very mature kid. He’s doing all the work on the field, but he’s coming in off the field just like last year to continue to grow. That’s the great thing about him.”

Morrison is committed to the work, even if it means early mornings. At Brophy College Preparatory, playing football required him to rise before the sun. 

“I was up at 4 a.m. or 3:55 in the morning,” Morrison said. “Waking up, going to practice. It was crazy, driving 35 minutes, having windows down so I stay awake in the car. I'm driving myself. My parents drove me for the first few years and then I drove myself.”

He also benefits from an NFL pedigree. His father, Darryl Morrison, played for the Washington Redskins from 1993 to 1996 before becoming a pastor. Morrison’s older brother, Sammy, played cornerback at Arizona. 

Growing up, Morrison watched his father train his brother into a Power Five athlete and wanted the same for himself. 

“I remember my dad pushed my brother to become the best player he could be,” Morrison said. “I remember them being in the garage, late at night, throwing the football in the garage. My dad's working with him. That's when I knew this is what I wanted to do. Ultimately it brings my dad and me together.

“We’re close. We have a great relationship outside of football. But football is really brought us together because that's what we both love to do. So we kind of have a special relationship because he's been where I want to go. So I know as much as he's my dad and I don't want to give him all his credit, that's my guy. I gotta give him his credit. I just gotta I listen to him and do what he tells me to do because, ultimately, I'm trying to get where he already has been. He knows what it takes to get there.”

Even if Morrison takes his game to a new level and becomes a coveted NFL prospect, that won’t necessarily equate to increased production this fall. Former Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton snagged four interceptions as a freshman in 2019 but only picked off one pass in his All-American season in 2020.

Opposing quarterbacks were understandably weary of throwing Hamilton’s way, which could be true for Morrison’s sophomore campaign. 

If that’s the case, the Irish need other players to step up, especially after Morrison’s six interceptions account for 40 percent of the team’s 15 forced turnovers in 2022, which tied Notre Dame for 98th in the nation.

Outside of Morrison, two returning defenders picked off a pass in 2022: defensive back Clarence Lewis and linebacker Marist Liufau. 

On the bright side, Morrison’s breakout freshman campaign could inspire defensive backs like Jaden Mickey, Cam Hart, Xavier Watts and others.

“They see the success. It becomes contagious,” Mickens said. “They see a counterpart having success, going after the ball, making game-changing plays. That’s the mindset. That’s the mindset we want in the room. That’s what we challenge. When I’m in this position, it’s not good enough to just have a pass breakup or knock it down. When you’re in this position, go get it.”

If the other starting Irish defensive backs turn additional targets into interceptions, Notre Dame should have one of the top secondaries in the nation this fall, anchored by a rising star in Morrison. 

Of course, the Arizona native almost stayed out west for college, momentarily committing to Washington (where his sister Faith competed in gymnastics) during the recruiting cycle. 

“That was my dream school growing up, and I just saw my mom crying,” Morrison said. “So I'm a mama's boy. I just thought my mom wanted me to be (at Washington). And I wanted to do anything that makes my mom happy. If going to that school made her happy, I was gonna do it. But I knew I wanted to be here (at Notre Dame). That was a crazy story.”

 
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