Arizona’s poor recent NFL Draft history is well-chronicled, with no Wildcats picked in five of the last 10 years and only six getting selected since 2013.
It’s even worse when it comes to offensive linemen. The last UA lineman to get drafted was Eben Britton, by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third round in 2009, one of only four ex-Wildcat blockers to get picked this century.
Jordan Morgan could change that if his 2022 season continues to show the progression he’s had throughout his career. The 6-foot-5, 328-pound fourth-year junior tackle is ranked as the 35th-best draft-eligible offensive lineman by NFLDraftBuzz, which projects him as a fifth-round pick in 2023.
The Marana native, one of then UA players on the watch list for the East-West Shrine Bowl postseason all-star game, says he’s aware of the draft rumblings, but for now he’s more concerned with trying to help Arizona climb out of the hole the program’s been in since before his freshman season in 2019.
“Most of the time I just keep my head down and keep working,” Morgan said. “I don’t buy into that right now.”
Arizona’s starting left tackle is the most athletic player up front, offensive line coach Brennan Carroll said, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
“He’s still got things to work on,” Carroll said. “Always try to perfect your craft and really keep developing and having greater knowledge of the position of defenses, what can happen, what calls you need to make, how do you make adjustments? I’m trying to give him all the information I have so if he’s got a shot to play at the next level he’ll be ready to go.”
The off-the-field part of pass- and run-blocking is where Morgan says he’s improved the most since his first season in 2019, when he appeared in the first three games in a reserve role and then ended up starting two of the final three contests.
“I think I’ve grown the most probably on the IQ side,” he said. “When I first got here, I didn’t expect to be in the film room. So, going through college, I learned to study film, watch film and understand the way defenses move. And that helped me a lot with reading defenses on the field and being able to execute everything quicker.”
There wasn’t much of a need to study while in high school, where he was just bigger and stronger than almost anyone who lined up across from him.
“Yeah, it was pretty much like, alright, that’s my guy right there,” Morgan said. “I get the end and knock them out. Move out the way.”
Morgan first started playing football in third grade but gave it up pretty quickly, not enjoying it. His older brother, John, got him interested in it again at the outset of high school, when he started out as a quarterback and then moved to tight end.
Then came a huge growth spurt his sophomore year, when he said he grew four inches and gained 100 pounds. After that, tackle was where he belonged, and he quickly showed a natural ease with the position.
“When I first started my coach knew I had the skill, I had the footwork, I had the technique, flexibility, bendability all of that stuff, so I just kept with it,” he said.
With Jayden de Laura and the rest of Arizona’s quarterbacks all right-handed, Morgan is the blind-side protector and therefore is key to helping keep the QB upright. The Wildcats allowed 35 sacks last season, with Morgan responsible for five of those according to Pro Football Focus.
But his role on the line extends beyond performance. As one of three multi-year starters, along with left guard Josh Donovan and right tackle Paiton Fears, he’s expected to be a leader for younger linemen like sophomore center Josh Baker and the numerous true freshmen in the room.
“I like being a leader,” he said. “I’m not very vocal, but when it comes to leading by example, I’m probably the best at that. I like to show everybody how everything is, how you need to do things properly, the correct way. When it comes to the vocal leaders, I let the guys who express it more vocally to be in front. I lead by example. I lead from the middle, I lead from the back.”