The game is moving fast these days for Mitch Morse.
Andy Reid’s voluminous playbook is not easy to master. And while Morse is used to facing big, strong and quick opponents after three years on Missouri’s offensive line in the Southeastern Conference, he says NFL players have one thing college players don’t.
“This is consistent, man,” Morse said. “All these guys are consistently good pass rushers, and it’s something you’ve got to step your game up on.”
But Morse, who has spent the last four practices with the Chiefs’ first team at center, is embracing the challenge and having a blast, too.
“It has its challenges, but the great thing is to get better, you have to be thrown into the fire,” Morse said. “And you have to have a next-play mentality, a one-play-at-a-time kind of deal. It’s interesting, man. It’s a lot of fun.”
After the Chiefs selected Morse, a 6-foot-6, 305-pounder, in the second round of this year’s draft, general manager John Dorsey said he anticipated Morse starting out at center, where the team was tasked with replacing Rodney Hudson, who left for Oakland in free agency.
Morse, a three-year starter at Missouri, hadn’t played that position since 2012, when he was eventually moved to tackle because of injuries and remained there for the final two years of his career.
But Morse’s athleticism caught the Chiefs’ eye, and after spending the majority of organized team activities as the backup to 2013 sixth-round pick Eric Kush at center, Morse is now getting his chance to show what he can do.
“I think that we are at that time of camp where obviously, bottom line, when you get to the regular season, you want to play the best five and there are still plenty of guys in there,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “We want to see Mitch in there and see how he handles going against the starting defensive front and spend a couple days there and see where he is at working with the first unit.
“So we are still trying to put the pieces together, nothing is set. Nobody has necessarily made the team yet. We are still working on finding that five.”
The experiment, for now, is coming at the expense of Morse’s buddy, Kush, who is now getting the second-team reps.
“Nothing changes, nothing’s set in stone,” Morse said humbly. “I’ve been getting first-team reps, but that doesn’t mean anything. (Kush) is an incredible football player. His knowledge of football is great and he’s consistent in what he does, and that’s what you need in a center. I’m trying to match that consistency.
“He’s one of the greatest guys you’ll ever meet. That’s just a good dude, a solid dude, who’s going to be a friend for a very long time.”
But to hold on to the job — the Chiefs have a month until their regular-season opener Sept. 13 — Morse must master the mental part of the game.
“Yes, I’m on that kind of arc,” said Morse, who has also worked at right guard. “It’s frustrating. If you pick up on things. Yeah, you do each day but then there’s new things you’ve got to pick up on that compound. And then you’ve got to go back and remember the basics. So it’s a challenge.”
As the center, Morse is also tasked with identifying stunts and twists, an area the Chiefs’ offensive line struggled in last year.
“No,” Morse said when asked if he’s where he needs to be in that area. “That’s the truth, and that’s something we work on extra hours every day.”
One area that Morse is pretty happy with, however, is snapping. Morse had some snapping problems at Missouri in 2012, but he hasn’t had any visible problems with it in camp.
But Morse knows he still has a long way to go to be the kind of player he — and the team — envisions him being. Thankfully, he has a group of teammates that will help him get there, including 11-year veteran quarterback Alex Smith and nine-year veteran left guard Ben Grubbs next to him.
“It’s great having this much practice and a quarterback who is such a seasoned veteran,” Morse said. “All these quarterbacks are great, and they’ll tell you what you need to do and help you out.
“And the guys who aren’t veteran, all the rest of those guys are just as willing to help and have helped. I couldn’t have (asked to be) in a better position with better guys than I am right now.”