Entering the 2014 season, the Michigan football team is set with a unique situation at the quarterback position. Senior Devin Gardner, the experienced veteran returning from a broken foot and sophomore Shane Morris, the promising young quarterback looking to take over for the rest of his college career will be duking it out to see who gets the starting nod.
I'm not a betting man, but you can find betting info at Superbowl360.com, Gardner has a pretty good shot.
After playing the role of a tackle dummy for opposing defenses all year, the wear and tear of playing behind Michigan's dreadful offensive line has finally caught up to Devin Gardner, who is missing out on valuable bowl preparation time with a turf-toe injury. Gardner has been walking around in a boot and using crutches for aid as he tries to heal himself in time to get back on the playing field. His efforts in the late-game stages against Ohio State were absolutely brilliant and gutsy. Watching that game, though, you got the idea that the entire season was finally catching up to him. He was hobbling in every which direction, leading his team in a fourth-quarter rally that just barely fell short.
Coming off of a heartbreaking 42-41 loss to Ohio State at home to end the regular season, the University of Michigan's football program has many questions to answer and problems to address coming off of a disappointing 7-5 season, the team's third under head coach Brady Hoke. The year is not done yet, as the team will likely be playing a bowl game sometime around Christmas, but now is the time that changes to a team are usually announced, whether it be staff or player related. That being said, Brady Hoke stated earlier this week that he does not anticipate any changes to his coaching staff an expects everyone to return for next season, including much criticized offensive coordinator Al Borges.
It's such a tired cliche. But in "Daddy Sang Bass," Johnny Cash says, "I remember when I was a lad. Times were hard and things were bad. But there's a silver lining behind every cloud." It's one of my favorite Johnny Cash songs. And--I promise--it's serving a purpose here. When Devin Gardner was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, my mind immediately turned to the possibility of him putting together one breakout season and fleeing to the NFL without cashing in on his opportunity to stay and develop. And despite many claims that our very own Devin Gardner would never do such a thing and act upon such a high, we've seen this story too many times to buy me comfort. The perfect example is Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon. He almost mirrors the career of Devin Gardner. As a freshman for the Badgers, Gordon appeared in only three games, accounting for menial yardage against lesser opponents. His sophomore campaign wasn't looking like anything special, either, until he burst onto the scene late and began to be a productive member of the Badger backfield. The highlight of the 2012 season came in the Big Ten Championship against Nebraska, where he rushed for 216 yards on only nine carries. And now this season, because of some numbers I've only been able to generate in video games, it's looking like Gordon will be one of the top picks at running back in the 2014 Draft if he declares. Who honestly saw this coming? Sure, the potential was there. But outside of mom's ambitious dreams and dad's tough love, it's not as though we were looking at Melvin Gordon a year ago and saying, "Yeah, this kid will be an excellent get in the draft next year." I was fearful of the same thing happening to Devin Gardner--come onto the scene, see you're actually a hot shot, and sprint for the cash and glory in the NFL. It's not that I wouldn't have been happy for Gardner. Because I would have. Any kid who has done well enough to get his name tossed around in the NFL Draft certainly has the right to follow his heart. But as many fans and critics and coaches will be quick to point out, even if Gardner had constructed a worthy season up to this point, it probably would not have been in his best interest to declare. Many scouts would want to see Gardner stick around the college game and continue to develop at quarterback, especially considering his switch to wide receiver for the first part of the 2012 season, which probably derailed some of the progress he had made before then. From a program perspective, it's always a blessing when a guy like Devin Gardner sticks around for an additional year. Michigan experienced that feeling when Taylor Lewan surprised us all and passed up a chance to go to the NFL after last season. The leadership of Gardner is undeniable. He's a great presence on the team and is quick to take blame for faults. His on-field inconsistency has masked that, unfortunately, and it's a shame. And you might also add that this gives a guy like Shane Morris even more time to prepare for the day when he takes over the Michigan offense. He's inevitably saving Morris (and probably fans, too) from an overload of stress next season. From a personal perspective for Gardner, he'll be able to spend an extra year at Michigan to prep his game for the next level and fight for a Big Ten Championship and--who knows--maybe a shot at a national title. And the great thing about Gardner's attitude is that it ensures us he won't just feel obligated to hang around and spend next season pampering himself, not taking any risks for fear of the results. He's going to put it on the line when he plays. Notice: The title reads "moderately thankful." I cry just as much as much as anyone else when Michigan's offense takes the field. But this will go to serve well for Devin Gardner and this team. That's inevitable.
We are just two games into the college football season, but the buzz is already starting to build up around new full-time starting quarterback Devin Gardner. After stepping up nicely in his five starts last season, he kicked off 2013 with an easy 59-9 win over Central Michigan and leading the way to a 41-30 victory over Notre Dame. Those who play fantasy sports at the college level are impressed with his eight total touchdowns, even if he has thrown three picks. With plenty of marquee games coming up on the schedule, Gardner is hoping to showcase his entire talent package all season.
Denard Robinson was the face of Michigan football for the past several seasons, but he was never considered to be a true NFL prospect. He was taken in the 5th round of the draft for his athleticism, but Gardner has always been considered the next NFL-level quarterback to wear the Maize and Blue. The scouting report heading into the season was that Gardner has the arm strength to make all the throws a NFL quarterback has to make. He throws a good ball when he has time and when he has to improvise on the run. His size (6’4”, 210) is also something that scouts love about him, as he still has enough athleticism to move around and create plays with his feet as well. Despite all the positives Gardner has, there are some things he needs to work on if he wants to start playing on Sundays. Most of them will come in time with reps, as he still holds the ball a bit too long and his mechanics can get lazy. These are easier fixes, so NFL scouts probably won’t be too scared off by these things. As a redshirt junior, a successful Michigan season could shoot Gardner up the draft board enough to have him leave after the 2013 campaign. Right now, odds are he will stay in Ann Arbor for 2014 as well. He will have to have a truly special campaign to be a lock high in the draft. While he has a ton of talent, having two years running his own offense in college might be best. Daily fantasy sports players should definitely keep an eye on Michigan’s schedule all season long.
As we originally expected, Jeremy Gallon looks like he will
be Michigan’s go-to receiver this season. Filling that role will be a major challenge,
which is no surprise. Having a very productive receiver is a key ingredient for a successful
offensive, and having a prolific receiver at Michigan season-to-season, is a must. There has always been a rich tradition of star receivers at Michigan (Too
many to name), yet it has been since Mario Manningham, way back in 2007, since
Michigan has seen a wideout eclipse the 1,000 yard mark. It was presumed that Roy Roundtree would be that guy last year, but in terms of matching stats, he came up short. After his big sophomore season, he plateaued in terms of performance. He ended up being the team’s
second leading receiver, behind none other then Gallon. Roundtree will be missed as a leader on and off the field, but now has a chance develop in the NFL. I expect better senior season production from Gallon this year. The other name on the
roster that had been drawing a lot of attention was Amara Darboh, who will now
sit out the entire 2013 season with a foot injury. Now that the WR core has
taken a big loss, it will put even more pressure on Gallon to excel, as well as
To many, especially outside of the conference, Gallon might
look to have his work cut out for him. He is undersized compared to the average
featured receiver, standing at 5’8, but plays significantly bigger. Devin
Gardner throws fades to Gallon as if he was 6’2, and Gallon always gives
himself a chance to come down with the ball. Gallon climbs the ladder better
then most receivers, of any height. He can also burn you deep, find a gap in the middle of the field, and make
you look silly after catching a bubble screen. He is an all around receiver,
all of the time. The effort he puts into bringing in the ball and making
something happen game after game is superb. Keep in mind the strong
relationship he already has with his Quarterback. The Gardner to Gallon
connection could be very dangerous this year. Gallon could pull in award
winning numbers just as easily as he could fall in to a slump and have a
“Roundtree like" Senior Year. If it’s the latter, then someone else must step
up in a huge way, because Devin Gardner has too much potential to not have a
star receiver to throw to.
I’m not expecting Gallon to win the Biletnikoff Award, or
have a midseason number change to #1, but I do expect consistent production,
and the occasional momentum-shifting touchdown grabs. Personally, I would love to see him
grab 10+ TD’s and post 1,000+ yards, but what Michigan Fan wouldn’t? The year is Jeremy Gallon's at receiver, and there is no doubt in my mind that he will make the most of it.
With the 2013 football season approaching ever-so-slightly. The time has come to begin some preseason predictions for Team 134.
Being a captain of the Michigan football team comes with high praise and high expectations. You are the player who (mostly) answer to the media, you're looked upon by coaches to lead and you're expected to show high integrity on and off the field.
This year more so than any other, the candidates for captains is probably easy to predict. But, below are my three candidates who, I believe, are perfect fits for captaincy on Team 134.
Captain one: Thomas Gordon
Thomas Gordon has flourished into a fantastic safety and has really grown into his own. He finished 2012 with over 80 tackles and two interceptions.
Gordon, a redshirt senior, will now have to become a vocal leader for the defense with Jordan Kovacs graduating. By all accounts, it appears that Gordon had already started to assume those roles last year.
In both of Hoke's two seasons with Michigan there has been a defensive captain. Don't expect this trend to change too much here. Gordon is the logical fit for a defensive captain position.
Captain Two: Devin Gardner
Even though he is a redshirt junior -- with help from the NCAA and a medical redshirt application -- quarterback Devin Gardner is also a logical choice for a captain position.
Gardner is loved in the locker room. With a big personality complicated with a big arm, this translates well with the other players when thinking of whom they want as their leader.
With Denard Robinson no longer stepping through the doors of Schembechler Hall, Gardner has done a wonderful job of stepping up and assuming the quarterback position. All while showcasing excellent leadership skills on offense.
On top of it all, Gardner is also striving to get better. By working out with QB guru George Whitfield Jr and attending QB camps, Gardner expects to see better results from himself as well. That type of dedication will be looked highly upon by coaches and players alike.
Captain Three: Taylor Lewan
Even though he is probably the most obvious of choices, there was a brief moment in time where his senior season at Michigan might not happen.
To all Michigan fans surprise, Lewan decided to come back for his final season at Michigan, forgoing millions at the next level. Which also locked up an automatic bid for captaincy, as well.
The dedication and adoration Lewan has for Michigan is telling. Him passing up millions to have one more go-around at college speaks volumes about the program and his leadership.
On the field, Lewan is a beast. Off the field, he is probably one of the funniest guys on the team. Combine that together and you have a likable guy the players can relate to and the coaches can trust being a positive influence on the underclassmen.
What we know: It's pretty clear that Devin Gardner has the starting QB position locked down. His performance and ability to run the offense was more often than not impressive. With Denard Robinson's presence on the field and the need to feed him the ball gone, this is 100% Devin's team. Gardner has the abilities to stretch the play with his legs and is a very capable passer, as we saw many times during the season last year. Though we have seen stranger things happen, spring/fall practices could have a major impact on who starts. With that being said, Hoke has proved time and time again that the best players take the field, no matter the class standing. We could see something similar to a Henne situation his freshman year. Henne wins the battle because of a Gutierrez injury in camp, and we all know what happened with Henne after that. Until Hoke says so, we will assume that Gardner is the man at the helm of this offense.
Is this Gardner's last year?: Will Gardner's medical redshirt become a distraction? This question will be looming all season as Gardner's medical redshirt status has yet to be announced. We might only see Gardner become a full-time starter for only one season compared to two years. That could be a critical blow considering the QB's behind Gardner have very little experience and will have to be thrown to the wolves. This situation will be examined closely throughout the season.
Do you RS Morris?: This is also a very interesting topic as a dependable backup has yet to be established. The Bellomy experiment didn't exactly work out against Nebraska and it wasn't his fault. No one expected Robinson to get hurt, that was Bellomy's first in-game experience of actual minutes. The past is the past. Is Bellomy capable of being a backup? Or is Morris too talented to sit? These questions will be answered during camp but red shirting Morris doesn't sound like a bad idea. Shelving Morris for a year would allow him to work on learning the offense, working on mechanics and other skills necessary to becoming a Michigan quarterback. Let's play the devil's advocate, what if someone gets hurt? Depth is a serious issue with the QB's, especially if someone goes down. Gardner is the only QB with considerable experience, would you sacrifice a RS year so Morris can be a backup? It's a risk you may or may not have to take. Like I said before, it all depends on what happens during camp.
What to Expect?: Gardner is the starter, there's no doubt about it. I expect him to have a solid year at quarterback. Gardner had a favorite target in Jeremy Gallon and I expect more of the same to continue. Since Michigan finally has a QB that is capable of delivering the deep ball, I expect the offense try to push the offense deeper downfield with longer passes to Gallon and other athletic receivers Michigan has on roster. I think it is reasonable to say that Gardner can see some All-Big Ten honors come his way at the end of year, though which team will remain to be seen. I think it's a bit early and a touch unrealistic to deem him "Heisman worthy". But, the sky is the limit for him.
Reasonable Stats: I think it's safe to say that Gardner could throw for at least 2200+ and around 20+ TD's (Which puts him in line with other past Michigan QB's). Gardner can and will expose the lesser defenses with ease. His athletic ability on the ground will also aid him as well. 500 yards on the ground and at least 5 TD's is a very real possibility. The coaching staff knows that Gardner isn't Denard and designed rushing plays don't have to be as frequent as years past. With that being said, Gardner will be able to pick up his own yards if plays break down and he sees openings.
Another ugly display of offensive ineptitude resulting in another road loss for the Wolverines against a quality opponent...
Yes, Saturday in Columbus might as well have been Groundhog Day. We've seen this movie a few times in the last two seasons where the Michigan offense falls flat on its face away from Ann Arbor in a big game.
Many have tried to spin it multiple ways and insist that the struggles are due to the fact that offensive coordinator Al Borges does not have "his guys" to run his offense. Well, Greg Mattison does not have "his guys" either and he is making it work. He's making it work quite well. Enough with that nonsense. Truly good coaches take what they have and make it work.
The bottom line is that an offensive coordinator's job is to come up with schemes/game plans that work with the team's strengths and work around its deficiencies and also, maybe most important, to make in-game adjustments to to help win games. I'm sorry guys but I can't tow the company line here and say that Borges is doing a good job here. If you think I am being a fair weather fan and want to make excuses for him you are living in a fantasy land and need to take off the Maize and Blue homer glasses. He's racked up points on teams with inferior talent and has fizzeld against those who don't.
If you are being honest with yourself you will admit that many times in his tenure he has been stubborn (Alabama and ND), incredibly predictable and unimaginative (MSU), and unable to make quality in-game adjustments to attack defenses' weak points (many games but OSU the most glaring example). These blunders were key contributors to at least two losses this season and, as a TRUE FAN (not a homer/slappy) that can think objectively, I think it's time to take a serious look as to what exactly Al Borges brings to the table. If you can't think objectively or will blindly support anything that this coaching staff does then stop reading because this is not for you.
Forget last year, let's just look at a few games this year where this Al Borges-led offense cost Team 133. And yes, I'll throw out the Alabama game because we weren't beating Alabama this year. Sorry it wasn't happening.
I think one of the biggest blunders was the Notre Dame game in which UM lost 13-6 to the supposed #1 team in America. A game in which the defense played their a***s off and gave the team a chance to win on the road. Why didn't they win? Because the offense had a gazillion turnovers including four Denard Robinson INTs primarily because Al Borges asked him to play the role of Tom Brady and sit in the pocket and throw the ball down field 30 times. Also, at a time when the offense was steadily moving on the stout ND defense and knocking on the door inside the 10 yard line in a scoreless game early, Borges dials up a halfback pass with a 5'7" Vincent Smith only to see it get intercepted and destroy momentum. Not going to go into any further detail but if you watched that game you saw the offense cost that team a W. No two ways about it.
Nebraska was a different avenue for ineptitude. Yes, Denard got hurt. Tough blow. But how in the world is Russell Bellomy not at least adequately prepared to resemble a functional QB? I don't want to hear it was a tough spot blah blah blah. Yeah, it was a tough spot. But it's on the coaches to make sure he is at least serviceable. No excuses. The staff was ill prepared to deal with the possibility of Robinson going down. And who is ultimately responsible for the offense? Al Borges.
I won't even touch on the fact that it's hard to believe that Borges truly felt that Bellomy was going to be the better option to back up Robinson in the event of an injury. Forget the fact that Gardner is an athlete and was a decent WR. His ability at QB is a heck of a lot higher than Bellomy's and I find it hard to believe the coaches didn't see that in the spring or the summer. Gardner may have even been the team's BEST option at QB and it's also hard for me to not at least entertain that idea. Not after what we have watched since the Minnesota game.
Even though the Wolverines beat MSU, they failed to score an offensive TD in that game. A combination of a completely horrendous Spartan offense and a pretty darn good defensive effort by Mattison's boys enabled Michigan to escape with a 2-point win after only mustering four FGs. Why did Michigan only score 12 points? Partly because MSU has a very good defense, but a big part also had to do with the fact the offense was beyond predictable. Denard run left. Denard run right. Denard run center. Maybe a tailback carry in the same fashion. Failure to convert red zone trips to TDs. They didn't even attempt to outscheme that tough Spartan defense. A win is a win but that is a game that very well could've or should've been won 24-10 or something along those lines. Thank God for Greg Mattison.
Now the most recent example of terrible offensive coaching leading to a loss was the disaster in Columbus on Saturday against the Buckeyes. The offense looked pretty good in the first half scoring 21 points and heading into the halftime with a 1-point lead. It had appeared we would see more of the Devin/Denard backfield that worked wonders the previous week. So what happened in the second half? Well, Gardener would throw a 1st down pass for six to eight yards only to be taken out to line Robinson at QB for designed runs. OSU knew he couldn't throw so it was as easy as stacking the box to stop the run. It worked. Shocker.
Not only did the constant QB shuffle kill Gardner's rhythm, it essentially telegraphed what play they would run. If Gardner was in it would likey be a pass. If Denard was in it was certainly a run. Basically, Borges took all of the possible creative ways he could have them both on the field and keep the defense off balance and disregarded all of it. At least when Robinson had his QB runs in the first half they attacked the edge of the defense where they were struggling without one of their best players. In the second half they decided to attack the Buckeyes' strength (and the UM weakness all season) the interior. It's one thing to try that with Robinson who can make plays on his own, but to constantly run a 5'7" 180 lbs. Smith on a power iso play on 3rd and short yardage was inexcusable. How did this make any sense? Someone please explain this to me?
Where were the Gardner rollouts (maybe even with a misdirection play action to Robinson) with a run/pass option that worked so well? Where were the bubble screens to Denard? Heck, try an option with Gardner and Robinson. Where was the creativity we had seen in previous weeks? I'll tell you why we didn't see it. The plays were called to not lose. They were not called to win. And, once it was painfully obvious OSU was not going to allow Denard to burn them again on QB runs, Borges kept dialing them up. By the time they stuck with Devin at QB and didn't even put Denard in the game for what seemed to be most of the fourth quarter, the offense was so out of sync it was hopeless. They didn't even cross the 50 yard line in the half. There is no defending Borges for what transpired on Saturday.
No imagination. No threat of a pass with Gardner out. No moving Denard around even as a decoy. This amounted to no win. The end.
Those are just a few examples of the ineptitude we have seen this season from Al Borges. And if you can't see how they greatly contributed to losses then I want some of what you're on.
You can point to the fact that the running game was putrid or rehash that Borges didn't have "his guys." I'll give you a response of a fart noise. Michigan has one of the most dynamic players in Denard Robinson at their disposal and also what appears to be a darn good dual-threat QB in Devin Gardner. A coach that has been touted an offensive genius and is "well-respected" in the college football ranks should be able to do wonders with that. Many coordinators are able to do a lot more with a lot less. I have a very difficult time defending Al Borges after this year and would not argue with anyone who would think that he held the team back in the win column this year. The numbers and the facts are right there in black and white. The argument can be made.
I am not one of those saying Hoke should be fired. That's goofy talk. I think he is the right guy for the job. Am I a little concerned about some of his game management at times along with his 3-13 road record in his last four seasons against winning teams? A little. But I think the good he has done as whole has far outweighed those things and I can look passed those for the time being.
However, I am seriously wondering if we have the right guy in Al Borges to run this offense in the future. I am concerned that it is entirely possible that his stubbornness, questionable play calling, propensity to get cute at the wrong times, his inability to make sound in-game adjustments, and his inability up to this point to outscheme any truly good defense could hold Michigan back from winning anything significant. It think it may have done just that this year. I am not saying this will 100% be the case moving forward but if you can't say the thought hasn't even crossed your mind you're crazy and probably delusional. I have seen enough in the last two seasons to at least be concerned.
I hope I am wrong about Borges. I hope he makes those of us who question his abilities look like imbeciles by directing juggernaut offenses. We'll see. But starting next season he won't have to "figure out" how to adequately use Robinson, he will have a QB capable of making the throws needed for his offense, and will have two years of recruiting "his guys." All of those crutches he has used to stand on will be gone and, at least for me, he is now on the clock. No more excuses.
Sorry for the rant. Losing to OSU in a game that was very winnable will do that.
It's Oh*o State week, and yes I refuse to spell out the name completely.
In 1897, the rivalry began. Over one hundred years later, in 2000, it was named by ESPN as the greatest North American sports rivalry.
This is not just a game. This never was just a game. Because on 22 occasions, Michigan and Oh*o State played to decide who would be B1G Conference champions. It's affected the determination of the conference title an additional 27 times. From there, roses are on the line.
Photo courtesy of www.sportsillustrated.com
The "Ten-Year War" began in 1969, when Woody Hayes' former Assistant Coach, Bo Schembechler, was hired as The University of Michigan's head football coach. The Buckeyes brought in a 22-game win streak that was deflated by a defensive battle and a 60-yard punt return to set up a touchdown, and in turn, a Michigan win. In 1973, both teams entered undefeated. Four times during the War, Michigan and Oh*o State were both ranked in the AP top five. Six times the teams shared the B1G title. Oh, and there was that infamous quote by Woody Hayes… it had something to do with filling up for gas.
Photo courtesy of www.bleacherreport.com
Then there was the Carr/Tressel era. When Tressel took over, he beat Michigan twice in a row; the second of which was decided on the last play of the game. Michigan struck back at the 100th meeting, winning 35-21 in Ann Arbor. In 2006, each team entered with an 11-0 record. The day before the matchup, the legendary Bo Schembechler died. The Buckeyes won the game, that could have been called an offensive battle, 42-39. There was a brief moment where the possibility of a rematch for the BCS title game was possible and even a reality… but then something happened with the state of Florida.
All in all, there's a history. This year, it's two schools and two new coaches. As history has shown, there really is no "offensive" or "defensive" battle. It's all out war. Oh*o State enters this match-up undefeated. Michigan, despite three tough road losses, has shown the ability to switch things up when needed. The good news is that there's another set of two this year: Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson. Or as I like to call it, double-trouble. If the Iowa game was any foreshadowing: Al Borges has a few tricks up his sleeve with these two. Will the Buckeye defense be able to stop Denard playing as a slot receiver? Will they even know which one is going to get the ball on the snap? Guess we'll have to wait and see how well their football players are at reading. And if I remember right, Cardale Jones wasn't too fond of classes.
ATTENTION ARMCHAIR QBS, COACHES, ATHLETIC DIRECTORS, ETC: There is no quarterback controversy at the University of Michigan!
Please take the time to read that once more, and maybe a few more times to let it sink in. I'm serious. Read it as many times as it takes for you to fully grasp those words that are written clearly and concisely in the English Language. It is the only language I am capable of speaking and writing in (even though I know very basic Spanish and some cuss words in Italian) so there should be no confusion here.
Okay, if you're still puzzled let me spell it out further. Ready?
For the remainder of the 2012 season, when Michigan's senior quarterback, Denard Robinson, is healthy enough to play he will be, and SHOULD BE, the starting quarterback for the Wolverines, and Devin Gardner will remain the backup. There is no controversy, discussion, second-guessing, wiggle room, ambiguity, or two ways about it. Enough. Stop with the nonsense.
Yes, Devin Gardner was a 5-star recruit and the #1 dual-threat QB coming out of high school and he sure looked the part on Saturday. Not to diminish Gardner's accomplishments on Saturday but they did play the Minnesota Golden Gophers who don't exactly tout a defense that draws comparisons to the '85 Bears.
And yes, Hoke said in his Monday presser that the offense we saw on Saturday was more of the pro-style Al Borges will run starting next year and Gardner ran it well. He appears to be more of the "traditional QB" mold and a better passer than Robinson.
All that is great, but Denard will still be the starter for the rest of the season as he should be. This supposed "QB controversy" is simply another case of the backup QB, goalie, etc. being the most popular guy in town and fans overreacting to the point of ridiculousness.
Robinson may not be the ideal QB that everyone, including the coaching staff, wants to see under center for U-M. However, the fact remains that he is still one of the, if not the, most dangerous player in all of college football. He has not put up the gaudy statistics, broken records, led dramatic comebacks, etc. by luck. He is a very good football player who makes plays and knows how to win football games. Oh yeah, he has also started every game the last three years up until Saturday. One good performance by Gardner is not enough to wipe that away nor should it blind us all as to how special of a player Denard Robinson truly is.
Let's not overlook the fact that Robinson IS the Michigan rushing attack which is why he accounts for over 75% of the team's offense. He's accomplished that by playing QB, not RB, WR, or anything else.
We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the RBs and the OL are struggling and Robinson is the only ball carrier who has proven that he can overcome those shortcomings. With that said, stop and think before you speak when you suggest he should be moved to RB or WR for the rest of his college career. If that move was to be made it would've been done either before last season or before this season at the latest. You don't make drastic position changes like that nine games into the season unless your team is desperate and does not have anything left to play for. Michigan is not one of those teams. Enough with the charade.
Look, what Devin Gardner did on Saturday was very encouraging and comforting for the future. If Denard is held out of games at any point during the rest of the season we now know that Team 133 has a very capable backup. That is a complete 180-degree turnaround from the sentiment we all felt after the Nebraska debacle. But that is as far as it goes, at least for the 2012 season.
As for next year, the optimism is completely different. Denard Robinson, for better or for worse depending on which fan(s) you speak to, will have graduated. Now you can talk all day about Devin Gardner being your starting quarterback. After Saturday's performance you would have to believe it may very well be his job to lose. He has the size, the arm strength, and overall ability to be very effective in a pro-style offense and he certainly can make things happen with his feet if things break down in the pocket. Saturday may have been a bit of a glimpse of what 2013 will look like and that is very exciting.
Notice I did not mention incoming 5-star recruit Shane Morris as being thought about as next year's starter. That is because if you think that is a good idea you really don't know much about football. Not trying to be a (insert expletive-filled insult here) but it's the truth. You do not start a true freshman at QB at a program that has championship aspirations unless you either have no other feasible option or said freshman completely blows away the other candidates.
For every Chad Henne there are about a gazillion Jimmy Clausens. Keep in mind Henne had Edwards, Avant, and Breaston to throw to, Hart in the backfield, and a very talented and experienced OL. Morris will not have those luxuries. Let the senior Gardner lead the team for a year, Bellomy play the role of backup, and let the talented 18-year old redshirt and learn for a year.
Don't agree with me, go back and watch some Jimmy Clausen highlights (if there even is any) from his freshman year at Notre Dame. He was the top QB recruit and looked like a deer in headlights all season long. Not pretty. Basically, chill out with the Morris for Heisman 2013 campaign. This is not Xbox.
To get back on track, the moral of the story is that if you are one of those fans that have been screaming from the mountain tops since around 3:00 PM on Saturday that Devin Gardner should start over Denard Robinson save your breath. It ain't happening. The coaches have said as much and they are right. Michigan will be just fine with "Shoelace" under center and will more than likely be fine next year with Gardner, not Morris, as the man. Enjoy the rest of the season and the rest of Denard Robinson's last year at Michigan...as the starting quarterback.
Wide receiver, quarterback, the kid can do it all. Yes, I am referring to QB-WR (ATH?) Devin Gardner. Gardner, after an impressive game against Minnesota, has seemed to douse the proverbial flames that were ravaging the Michigan fanbase as of late.
In Denard Robinson's absence, it was apparent that we were lacking a game-ready backup quarterback as we saw Russell Bellomy struggle mightily against Nebraska last weekend. Though this isn't necessarily Bellomy's fault, the "ABANDON SHIP!!!" warning flares were sent into the air.
Cue Gardner this past Saturday as Robinson was not ready to go. Was Michigan really going to start a converted quarterback-to-wide receiver-back-to-quarterback as its starting quarterback on Saturday? One, might I add, who hasn't had a career start? Yep.
Now, before I go on, we must remember that this is Minnesota we are talking about. The bottom dwellers of the Big Ten, the algae suckers of the fish tank.. Okay, you get the picture. Don't get too comfortable with the fact that Gardner played great and this is a sign of things to come. Yes, it's encouraging to know we have someone that can play when needed. We just need to remember who the opponent was. With that being said, I am confident this is not a flash-in-the-pan one-time deal.
After Gardner's performance on Saturday, 12-18 for 234 and two touchdowns, Michigan fans should be comforted knowing that the 2013 campaign (and the rest of the 2012 season if needed) will be manned by a senior (or junior this year) with experience. That man should be Devin Gardner. No offense to Bellomy or incoming freshman Shane Morris, but Gardner has a much greater grasp of the offense. This should be his job to lose.
Gardner is a large guy coming in at about 6-4 and 204 lbs. A perfect size for a pro-style quarterback. While looking at our other options, I'd choose him with the game on the line if Robinson wasn't available. Gardner looked comfortable in the pocket once he settled down. He didn't seem to miss a beat, hitting his reads and check-downs with precision. He really looked like he was meant to be under center all along. As many Michigan fans might've realized while watching the game on Saturday, it looked like we were watching a mid 2000's style Michigan team. Yes, my friends, OLD SCHOOL MICHIGAN FOOTBALL IS BACK! Well, I can dream right?
At the end of the day, the best 11 take the field. Gardner has the tangibles to be a crucial part of that starting 11 on offense next year. With a cannon of an arm, great natural senses in the pocket, and the ability to stretch a play using his feet. He will be an important piece to the Michigan offense in 2013.
There is no denying that Team 133 will only go as far as a healthy Denard Robinson will take them. That was made perfectly clear after "Shoelace" was knocked out of the game in the 2nd quarter of Michigan's loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday with a nerve injury to his throwing elbow.
Enter 2nd string QB, and possible 2013 starter, Russell Bellomy...a redshirt freshman...in Lincoln Nebraska...under the lights...in a crucial divisional matchup.
In a situation like this as a fan you take a big gulp and know disaster lies ahead. Bellomy's final numbers were of Armageddon proportions:
PASSING ACCURACY - 3/16
PASSING YARDS - 38
INT - 3
TD - 0
RUSHING YARDS - 0 (Multiple sacks nullified the yardage he gained on 5 carries)
He didn't have have much help as his receivers dropped a handful of passes, he was under duress by the Nebraska pass rush, and the RBs continued to contribute next to nothing, but the numbers are still ghastly no matter how you slice it. Subsequently U-M suffered a 23-9 defeat and failed to score an offensive TD for the 2nd straight week.
There is always doom and gloom after a Wolverine loss but this week was a little different.
"Russell Bellomy is a terrible QB!"
"We're screwed next year because we have no QB!"
"Shane Morris is going to have to start as a true freshman!"
"Fire Al Borges!"
"FIRE BRADY HOKE! (Yes, I did indeed see this on Twitter)
Look, I was just as angry and frustrated as anyone and entertained some doom and gloom myself...FOR THIS SEASON.
Once I had the opportunity to cheer myself up by watching some Seinfeld and think logically, I was able to put things in the proper perspective. Bellomy is a redshirt freshman with minimal game experience who was thrown into a snake pit and asked to win a crucial game with very little help. I am not sure what everyone was expecting. I would think that nine out of ten QBs would struggle in that scenario. Give the kid a break.
Was I a little shocked that he wasn't a little more game ready?
Do I think some of it falls on Al Borges and the offensive coaches to ensure that they have a QB ready to go in and at least be serviceable?
Since they have a running QB who gets pounded every game and has a history of getting banged up you're darn tootin' I do.
But let's get things straight, this was a kid thrown into a situation where the odds were severely against him. His future career at U-M should not be judged or speculated upon based off of one underwhelming performance in which he was asked to do the unthinkable. People who think his career will be defined by what happened on Saturday need to scale back on the caffeine and/or narcotics a smidge.
Once the season is finished his mindset, as well as the mindset of the coaches, will completely change. He will be preparing, mentally and physically, to be the starting QB at the University of Michigan. Not the backup. He will be prepared by the coaching staff, mentally and physically, to be the starting QB at the University of Michigan, or at least compete for the spot. Not to be the backup. The offense will shift from the spread to more of a pro-style, Al Borges' preference, to adhere to his skill set. He will be more equipped to be a serviceable, and who knows, maybe even a pretty good starting signal-caller for the Wolverines.
I don't have a crystal ball but I am pretty certain that given the reps and the opportunity next season, he will prove that he is not nearly as bad as he appeared in Lincoln. He would not have been recruited by the coaching staff if he was and there is a reason he is #2 on the depth chart. They are the same coaches that get praised daily for their recruiting prowess so I think we can safely say Bellomy was not brought in by throwing darts at a dartboard. Chill out people.
Also, those of you who think Shane Morris is going to come in as an 18-year old freshman and take the starting spot are nuts. I can't put it any other way. You saw what happens on Saturday when you put a kid in at QB before he's ready...disaster. As talented as Morris may be he will still be a freshman.
You don't start a frosh at QB unless you absolutely have to. And if that is indeed the case you'd be extremely naive and borderline crazy to think Morris will come in and be lights out and lead Team 134 to a B1G title. This ain't the MAC or Conference USA. It's the B1G and you don't ask a kid to lead a big time program into places like East Lansing and Iowa City. At least at Michigan you don't. Chad Henne was the exception not the rule. He also had Braylon Edwards, Steve Breaston, and Jason Avant to throw to and Mike Hart in the backfield. Enough with the Shane Morris talk people. At least until 2014.
If you want to worry about what might happen this season if Denard Robinson can't stay healthy then fine. Believe me, I'm right there with you. But when it comes to next season let's all just relax and trust the coaches to have the starting QB, presumably Russell Bellomy, ready to run the offense smoothly. Give a very good staff the benefit of the doubt and step away from the ledge.
Team 133 is in the middle of a battle for a division title. They are undoubtedly focused on just that and not next season. I suggest the fans follow suit.
Will he? Or won't we? As the rumor mill churns, the question still looms large. Will Devin Gardner pursue playing wide receiver for Team 133? My response to that question would be simply put. Why not?
The misuse of an eligibility year by Rich Rodriguez started this whole mess. If Gardner only were to be redshirted his Freshman year, we would be talking about two more years after Denard Robinson, not one. With Robinson being the main man this year, Gardner must do what he can in order to see the field.
My opinion? Gardner is all about the team, obviously. So seeing a few snaps elsewhere can only be a positive addition to the squad. Opposing defenses wouldn't know how to defend a play that involves Gardner lining up as a receiver. The threat of a trick play is always there.
Not to mention, Gardner has nice size. At 6-4, 205 lbs with speed, he is a favorable match-up against lesser defensive backs he will see. Also, there is video of Gardner in an unknown camp catching some balls. He has impressive hands. That video can be viewed, here (his catches begin at the 43 second mark). Seeing video like this can only be encouraging, and he looks capable or filling in at wide receiver in some capacity.
I doubt this possible move will be permanent, though nothing is promised. With highly touted recruit Shane Morris coming to town next fall, the situation could get muddy. At the end of the day, the best player wins the starting job.
If Gardner wants to help the team in other areas, you let him. If it doesn't work out, he's still a quarterback with love for the Michigan Wolverines. He will wait patiently for the opportunity.