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2021 in-state target Marcus Morgan is learning how to lead the Trojans offense. Dargan Southard, msouthard@gannett.com

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IOWA CITY, Ia. — Perhaps it was the color coordination between compression leggings and cleats — perhaps it’s the fact he’s not wearing No. 20 anymore. Either way, Marcus Morgan just looks more like a quarterback in year two under center.

OK, there’s no correlation between gameday swag and production. But consider that a microcosm of Morgan’s establishment on the statewide scene. He entered his sophomore year in a quarterback battle. He’s now off and running as one of Iowa’s most intriguing 2021 prospects.

The Trojans are still growing around Morgan, evident by Friday’s 42-15 loss to Bettendorf that had a running clock to start the second half. West graduated 36 seniors off last season’s nine-win squad. The program is off to its first 0-2 start since 2015.

Still, poise, promise and potential bubbles from Morgan’s makeup. There’s a reason Iowa State went on-brand and extended an early offer. There’s a reason more schools are bound to jump in soon enough.

The Register was on-hand Friday as Morgan threw for 214 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on 12-for-25 passing.

The mobility and athleticism are evident.

For a player whose recruitment will not only include which school — but which sport(s) — is the best fit, it’s no surprise that Morgan’s athleticism pops right away.

West doesn’t ask him to be a true dual-threat weapon; all four of his “rushing” attempts were Bettendorf sacks. Yet Morgan is comfortable rolling out and throwing on the run with accuracy.

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Highlights from Marcus Morgan’s outing against Bettendorf. The 2021 quarterback is generating plenty of in-state recruiting traction. Dargan Southard, msouthard@gannett.com

The first two highlights display that. The latter was particularly impressive, given how backed up West was against its own end zone. Even on the move, the ball comes out tightly and crisply.

There weren’t many opportunities to showcase arm strength — but one play was enough.

Desperately trying to halt the running clock, the Trojans dialed up a chance for Morgan to let one loose.

Wide receiver Tate Crane had a step on his man as he streaked down the home sideline — and Morgan did his part with a beautifully placed deep ball. The precision and placement were perfect.

The touchdown pass covered 77 yards, 50-plus of which came with the ball in the air. The arm strength and potential that have colleges interested was on full display.

West’s fledgling receiving unit is still finding its way — so it goes when a program graduates three of its top four pass-catchers. As a result, the Trojans mostly kept things simple through the air.

They had to take at least one chance, though, given the circumstances. Morgan delivered with authority.

Understandably, there's still some growing to do.

As an established year-round varsity asset, Morgan is bound to command the respect of his teammates. He’s organically grown into a leader on a squad recovering from a massive graduation. That proves beneficial much more often than not.

At times, though, Morgan forced throws that simply weren’t there. The sizable deficit likely played a factor as Morgan tried to ignite a spark. However, the end results were three interceptions (one of which was wiped away on a roughing the passer penalty).

Two were passes along the sideline that should’ve just been throwaways. The one pick that didn’t count was an across-the-body heave into traffic.

You’d rather have that aggressiveness than not — and head coach Garrett Hartwig said as much in postgame interviews when asked if Morgan tries to do too much sometimes. The good news is sharper decision-making will improve with more experience. Remember, Friday was only Morgan’s 11th varsity start.

“You’d rather have to deal with that and pull back the reins than have to prod it out of him,” Hartwig said. “In this program, we like to play aggressive. If he goes to play for the win, we’ll always try to tell him and coach our kids to make the right play — and that turns into the big play.”   

The maturity is there to embrace what's ahead.

No doubt, this will be a fun recruitment to watch.

Rick Heller and Matt Campbell have the on-record offers to date, and more opportunites are inevitably on the way. To some, Morgan’s multi-faceted decision might seem overwhelming. But the youngest of four Division I siblings appears more than ready enough to handle it all.

“Just going to let things play out,” Morgan said. “Keep being me, keep working hard. They’ll work out how they’re supposed to work out.”

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.

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