Five days before the Maryland men's lacrosse team's season opener, goalkeeper Dan Morris' conversation with one of the Terps' many young players struck midfielder Tim Rotanz. Morris sternly instructed the youngster where he should be positioned during a clear.
Because Morris had the luxury of working with veteran short-stick midfielders last season, his first as a starter, he didn't need to be a vocal leader. But without defenseman Tim Muller and defensive midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen, who served as loud veteran presences on the Terps' championship team, Morris has taken on a comparable role.
Coach John Tillman praised Morris' leadership before the Terps' 10-4 win over Navy and the senior will likely seek the same approach when the No. 2 Terps host Marist on Tuesday. If the preseason dialogue is any indication, the Dallas native is prepared to anchor Maryland's defense.
"He was getting on someone like, 'Hey, I need you in this spot,'" Rotanz said. "That was something I've never heard him say because we've had older guys in the short-stick position so he hasn't had to get animated. He's starting to find his place, when he can and when he can't."
Morris and Rotanz, who are roommates, often debrief on team practices after getting home. The conversations started with the pair's frustrations.
But then, after discussions with Rotanz and watching film, Morris recognized the team's youthful defense won't be perfect from the outset. That's where Rotanz noticed the biggest change in Morris' perspective.
"We say 'Hey, we can get as frustrated as we want, but we have a lot of young guys, and we have to help them out,'" Rotanz said. "That's where Dan is starting to turn the page. We're both learning."
The Midshipmen tested Morris' outlook immediately, as one of the few vocal players remaining on Maryland's defense didn't play. Senior defenseman Bryce Young is week-to-week with an undisclosed injury.
Morris used hand gestures to guide Maryland's midfielders and shouted what plays the opposing offense was running.
Maryland's defense thrived in part because of Morris' assistance. Even without arguably their best defenseman, the Terps allowed four goals, the fewest they've given up in a season-opener since Navy scored once to open the 2015 campaign. Morris also recorded 11 saves.
"I don't necessarily have much pressure because we have a great coaching staff, and the guys around me are great," Morris said. "I can be a guy who's vocal and help out the guys on my defense just a little bit with what I'm seeing on the field."
With nine ranked teams on their schedule, the Terps will likely often rely on Morris to lead their defense.
"Morris talks more than any goalie we've had since I've been here," Tillman said Feb. 6. "I'm not saying he's a better stopper, but being a fifth-year, he's calling out more sets than Kyle [Bernlohr] or Nico [Amato] did."