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.
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.
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.
The "Guest Contributor Series" gives the power to the people. Ever wanted to make a post for a website without all of the strings attached? Well, here's your chance. The Big House Report gives you the power and the freedom to speak your mind.
This edition's contributor is Daniel Carr (or @HolySmHoke on Twitter). He discusses Shane Morris. Check it out below:
At first glance, you may think that I'm 'off my nut'. Abuse? What in
the world is this about? How could that even be possible? Good
I'm not referring to abuse in the classic sense. What I see happening is
a combination of exploitation and overuse. There is genuine concern for
Shane's career, especially his longevity in the game he loves.
My background is in baseball, more specifically, pitching. It is well
known that the motion of throwing overhand is an unnatural act for the
shoulder and all of the tissues that helps make the act of throwing
possible. Injuries are becoming more and more commonplace and athletes
are pushed to their physical limits and beyond, all for the pursuit of
'the dream'. I've had my share of injuries during my playing career,
eventually being forced away from playing in college due to the pain
caused by even playing catch. What happened isn't unusual, nor is the
risk of permanent injury going away.
The act of throwing a baseball is very similar to that of a football
except for one small act, the twisting of the wrist/elbow in a violent
inward motion to achieve the spiral. Also, the fact that the football
throwing motion is referred to in baseball terms as 'short arming' the
throw to achieve a quick release time. Most baseball pitching coaches
and trainers recommend that no one under the age of 14 be taught how to
throw a breaking ball. The reason for this is simple, the act itself it
too hard on the joints and adjoining tissues could lead to many future
problems/injuries. Tendonitis, joint inflammation, and early arthritis
are just some of the problems that follow early abuse of the shoulder
and elbow. Some are even being subjected to surgery to repair the abused
I agree with this wholeheartedly and even though I've been asked
numerous times by well meaning parents/coaches, I kindly refuse for the
above reasons. Most understand but some get angry with me. The general
feeling is that I am denying the player a potential advantage that
could help advance the player's career. So, what does all of this have
to do with Shane?
A quick look at Shane's recruiting status among the varied recruiting
services show that he has a great talent and a very bright future. Of
this fact, there is little to no debate. My issue is with what is
happening to him now. With his commitment to the University of Michigan
secure, what is the point of the attempt to increase his ratings with
the scouting services? So far this summer, if my count is correct,
Shane has participated in at least 8 different football camps. Granted,
these are the elite, invitation only types that all high school players
dream of being asked to attend. But just like asking a
multi-billionaire 'how much money is enough', how much exposure is
enough? What could really be gained by attending these other than the
experience and pushing fellow campers to choose Michigan also? Is the
prospect of getting the few recruiting services that rate Shane as a 4*
to make them move him into the 5* area really worth it? Will he
decommit from Michigan and go to a 'better opportunity' because he gets
that extra star? Of course not.
This isn't as simple as having a player, especially a quarterback, show
up, run a couple 40s and leave. Shane and the others are being asked
repeatedly to show off their arm. Not including the warm ups, a
quarterback at these camps are asked to throw literally hundreds of
throws every day. This repetition goes well beyond 'gaining arm
strength'. To me, this borders on insanity and abuse. Who really
benefits from making Shane throw the 'deep out' pattern 20-30 times in a
When I was a varsity baseball coach, the MHSAA instituted a pitch count
regulation for baseball players. There were sheets that the coaches
were required to fill out daily and keep on hand throughout the season
to show each player's pitch/inning count up to the minute. I understand
the reasoning behind this rule, to protect the arms of our young
players. During my playing days, before the pitch/inning count rule, I
regularly threw both games of a double header without anyone coming in
for relief. It wasn't a big deal to me at the time but it makes me
wonder 'what if' and how much of all of those pitches brought my career
to a premature end.
There are currently no limits on the number of throws a quarterback can
make in a day, game, or season. I'm not pushing for there to be one
initiated. There's a number of football offenses that would literally
disappear if a player was limited to 40 throws a game, for example.
What I am pushing for in this case, is for common sense to be applied.
Shane's elbow and shoulder need rest. They need rest right now. Shane
will go from all of these camps right into his senior season. Once the
season ends, Shane will undoubtedly be placed on a program to further
ready him for the rigors of major college football which will then lead
him right into his time at the University of Michigan. Multiple
throwing sessions of hundreds of passes will be in the program. Is this
really a good idea? Where is the time off that his body will need?
Shane will take a number of big hits in the fall as well as making a
number of big throws. Both of these are part of the game but the
excessive abuse of the throwing motion doesn't need to be included.
It's very possible that Shane will go on to have a stellar career at
Michigan and possibly even the NFL. Eventually though, the excessive
throwing will catch up to him. We can only hope that when it does, it's
not in Ann Arbor.
Some are heralding him as the savior of the Michigan program, our solution at quarterback and a kid who will bring us back to the traditional ways of pro-style quarterbacks.
Morris, 5* QB from Warren, MI took some time out to answer a few questions of mine.
Q: It's obvious your stock has been on the
rise and the hype about your game is at an all-time high. How do you
deal with the hype? What keeps you grounded?
A: The hype can obviously get to people and sometimes it can be hard to
keep grounded. But, my parents do a great job of keeping me level-headed
and also my coaches do a great job of helping me as well.
Q: Did you ever expect this recruiting class (2013) to take off at such a fast pace like it has?
No, I honestly didn't think it would be like this. I knew that it
should be, but I didn't think it would. Michigan's a great place and
people know that.
Q: Building off that, care to share your recruiting secrets? What are your
major selling points about the University of Michigan that makes kids
want to come here?
I don't really have any secrets (laughs). I just let them know about
Michigan and how amazing it is. I tell them about all of the benefits you
get from earning a degree from the University of Michigan.
Q: Before attending school in Ann Arbor, what do you feel is the greatest area of your game that you feel you need to improve?
I need to improve on every aspect of my game before I arrive in Ann
Arbor. I'm nowhere near where I want to be when I reach college and I
need to work harder than ever to get there.
Q: Do you feel you can be ready to start game one as a true freshman? Do
you feel like you can beat out Devin Gardner on the depth chart?
I'm working right now to start as a freshman. I need a lot of work and I
need to develop physically and mentally in order to do that. Devin Gardner is a
great quarterback and he will be a senior when I arrive. It will be his
team and he is a great leader, but there is no way that I will just let
him have the job. I want to push him every day in practice to make him
be the best he can be. But obviously it's my goal to start as a freshman
just as it is everyone's goal coming into college.
Q: I'm going to be asking the obvious here, but why Michigan?
A: I'll just state the obvious answer. Why not? It's Michigan. It's the
most amazing place in the world and there's not a better school or
football team out there.
Q: In your recruiting class, who are you the most excited to have already committed and who is your number one target?
I'm not excited over one kid more than I am over any other kid in our
class. Our 2013 class is amazing and it's only going to get better. We
have great potential together and we just need to keep working hard and
Q: Can you drop any hints as to what Michigan fans may expect with the rest of this recruiting class?
A: All I can say is that you can expect it to get better. The coaches
aren't taking a day off with recruiting and they want the best players
in the nation.
Q: What are some goals of yours you would like to achieve before you leave Michigan?
Well, obviously everyone's goal is to win a championship such as the Big Ten
championship and National championships. That's something we will do.
Q: Henne, Harbaugh, Leach, Grbac, Brady, Greise. You're playing in a
historically important position for the University of Michigan. What's
it going to take to have your name included in the same breath with
the all-time greats at the quarterback position?
All of those names mean so much to the program. Combine them with the legendary coaches and they made
Michigan what it is today, "greatness." For me to be considered with
those names, it will take a tremendous effort and hard work for 4-5 years
and not taking a day off. I want more than anything to go down as one of
the greatest quarterbacks in Michigan history. But, I know what it is
going to take and I need to start working toward it right now.
If you want to check out some highlight tape on Morris. You can find it, here.
Also, if you're interested in a more in-depth recruiting profile of Shane Morris. You can view that, here.