In charge at Morgan and loving it Persell develops into reliable QB

October 23, 1992|By Tara Finnegan | Tara Finnegan,Contributing Writer

Off the field, Morgan State quarterback Orlando Persell often can be found eating pizza and watching game films with his teammates.

A business administration major, Persell hopes to someday own and run a business.

"I just want to be my own boss and run the show," said the junior from Detroit. "It's kind of the same as being a quarterback and running the show."

On the field, Persell has completed 59 of 115 passes for 864 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He is more or less running the show, or at least calling the shots, for the 2-4 Bears this season.

"He's our No. 1 guy," said Bears coach Ricky Diggs. "He adds so many dimensions to our offense."

As a freshman, Persell had a limited role, completing 12 of 30 passes for 163 yards with a touchdown and one interception. Last year he went 56-for-117 for 685 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for three touchdowns and 113 yards.

Persell stayed in Baltimore this summer to train and learn Morgan's run-and-shoot offense.

"I worked out in the weight room, ran every evening and threw with the receivers," said the 6-foot, 190-pound athlete. "I think I had a 10-day vacation [before the season]."

Persell's off-season endeavors have paid off for the Bears.

"He's at least 80 percent better today than a year ago," Diggs said. "He understands more about the offense and where the receivers are going to be.

"He's done an excellent job preparing himself here," said Diggs, tapping his head. "And he's physically ready."

The run-and-shoot offense is new to Persell, who played in a "pro-I" formation at Northern High in Detroit. He was moved to quarterback his sophomore year in high school.

"When I was in high school I didn't want to play quarterback, I wanted to play defense or wide receiver," said Persell, who played quarterback only in pick-up games. "One day my coach put me in at quarterback and from that day on, that's where I played."

And it looks like that's where he is going to stay.

Persell battled with sophomore Michael Moore in the preseason for the starting job. Diggs said Persell had won the job before Moore injured his shoulder. Moore is out for the season with a inflamed rotator cuff and will redshirt this year.

Persell has played in five of the Bears' six games. He sat out last Saturday against Central State because of "bumps and bruises," Diggs said.

"The only reason we sat him out to nurse his injuries was because he was too valuable to put in a game not in our conference and get hurt," Diggs said.

In the 51-29 loss to Central State, Maurice Chase passed for a school-record 322 yards -- completing 21 of 51 passes, with four touchdowns -- but was sacked 10 times.

"Maurice didn't beat him out," Diggs said. "He threw for 322 yards but there's been games where Orlando has thrown for 295. You don't change quarterbacks for 27 yards."

Persell said he hyper-extended ligaments in his knee but has been practicing at full capacity all week and is ready for tomorrow's 2 p.m. homecoming game against MEAC opponent Delaware State (5-1).

"We've gone into every game this season thinking we can win," Persell said. "The losses we've had this year, we've had a few minor mistakes."

Last season, the Bears were 0-6 going into homecoming weekend. Their 2-4 record shows progress for Diggs and his squad.

"Our problem on offense is that we have to warm up in the first half before we get going," Diggs said.

If Persell can jump-start the Bears offense early against the Hornets, he may not only run the show, but steal it as well if the Bears get their first homecoming win since 1979.

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