There were times during the past 18 months when David Morris asked himself, "Why am I still doing this?"
During a standout freshman campaign, Morris burst onto the scene as one of the top young defensive players in the Pac-12 and was expected to be a key figure in Oregon State’s secondary as the Beavers worked to adopt a new defensive identity in 2018.
But a series of freak injuries — Morris broke his right foot in early 2018, and then his left foot later that fall — kept him sidelined for all but two games last season and even in those instances, he was relegated to a reserve role. It left him with a tedious rehab process and more questions than answers.
“It was tough,” Morris said. “I would come back and get hurt, come back and get hurt. So for me, I was just like, ‘What is going on?’”
The solution, as it turned out, was a pair of specialized cleat insoles that helped Morris change his running stride and resolve some biomechanical deficiencies that were causing him to put unnecessary stress on the foot bones.
Now, Morris believes the injury woes are behind him for good, and he is ready to pick up where he left off in 2017.
“We’re motivated with this new coaching staff and the scheme that they have,” Morris said. “I know the DBs are more motivated than ever just because some of these guys have been in this losing situation for so long — I’m already coming in on my third year. I think we’re all like, ‘It’s time to go — this is the year that we have to prove ourselves and do something and make some noise.’”
The Sherwood product received all-Pac-12 honorable mention during his freshman season when he recorded 75 tackles, tied for the second most of any Beavers player that year.
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Last season, Morris tried to use his time on the sideline to his advantage as he absorbed the scheme of newly arrived defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar. Now, it’s easy to imagine how he might fit in among an Oregon State secondary that is suddenly stocked with talented veterans.
“Seeing spring, it was kind of a big difference seeing what the defense was doing — being able to sit on the sideline and all of that. It was good for me and it was good to see what those deficiencies were so that when I come back I can try to change those things. Leading with Jalen Moore and Omar Hicks and those older guys who also saw it as well.”
While last season's injuries were incredibly frustrating for Morris, they also allowed him to round out both physical and mental aspects of his game. He said he spent much of the last year and a half building strength in his upper body, and added five pounds from his 2017 playing weight while trimming his body fat from 12 percent to seven percent.
Most importantly, he found an unlikely answer to the foot injuries that threatened to derail his career.
“Since I broke my first foot, that was when I kind of first found out about the gait," he said. "I didn’t really expect to have the same break on the other foot. Since I found out about that, we had to change up my cleats. I had to get specially designed in-soles and stuff like that.
"Overall it’s kind of been more of an equipment thing and trying to help me with that so that as I’m running and doing what I need to do, my shoes and my soles are kind of helping me maintain my balance in my feet. It’s been an equal thing of me trying to fix it, but then also the equipment.”
It’s still early days for Morris, though — he wasn’t able to practice for much of last week as he works his way back from a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined during spring practices. Oregon State’s coaching staff is still looking for a consistent, healthy showing.
“He’s got to be healthy enough to get out there and practice — we’re waiting for the trainers to let us know when he’s good to go,” Tibesar said. “I haven’t seen him get through more than three or four practices. We’re really hoping he can be healthy but you’ve got to be out there to keep getting better.”