Note: This is MY take on the Michigan QB situation going forward, not necessarily the opinion of the Bleed Blue Staff. Thanks!
Brady Hoke has managed to put together yet another very strong recruiting class for the Wolverines. One of the gems of the 2013 class was local quarterback Shane Morris out of Warren De La Salle.
A prospect with a 5-star skill set (he was later dropped to 4 by some scouts), Morris was touted as the heir apparent to Denard Robinson at the quarterback position and a player that would officially usher in the Brady Hoke era with a pro-style offense. But a lot of things have changed since then.
Denard Robinson had injury issues in 2012, many of which where he had to leave games for a series or two, when they would bring in redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy. When Robinson went down with an elbow injury in a fairly close game at Nebraska, Hoke brought in Bellomy to finish out the game. It did not go well, to say the least. Bellomy completed only 3-of-16 passes with no touchdowns and three interceptions in the losing effort, prompting the coaching staff to make a decision going forward that would have long-term ramifications.
Junior wide receiver Devin Gardner, who was recruited as a quarterback by Rich Rodriguez, was given first team reps in place of Denard Robinson the following week and started at Minnesota.
The move paid off better than the Wolverines could have planned. Gardner finished 12-for-18 with 234 yards and 3 total touchdowns in the game. He never lost the job after that, even after Robinson returned from injury, finishing with 18 total touchdowns in five starts.
While not quite the world-class athlete that Robinson was, Devin Gardner showed Brady Hoke that he was a very good passer that could make plays with his feet when need be. He is a pass first guy, something defenses never had to account for when Denard was back there.
Devin Gardner is waiting to gain a medical redshirt due to injuries occurred in his freshman season, which would give him two more years of eligibility and most likely the starting quarterback job as long as he chooses to stay.
Which brings us back to Shane Morris. Many people thought that after Denard Robinson graduated, there was a slight chance that Gardner could be a stop-gap guy, but that Shane Morris would start as a freshman, much like Chad Henne ended up doing. Now that Gardner has an extra two years, chances are very good he keeps the job.
Morris missed a significant amount of time due to mononucleosis in 2012 and didn’t have a particularly strong showing in the Under Armor All-American game. If Morris is truly the future of the Michigan Football at the quarterback position, he needs the opportunity to get in-game reps this season.
Consider this possibility: What if Devin Gardner goes out there this year and has a Cam Newton circa 2010 type of season? His NFL stock will be huge, and he is the prototypical type of QB that the league is starting to showcase more. If his stock raises that high, you bet he’ll at least consider leaving for the NFL.
So if he did, and Morris was to redshirt this season, what does Michigan do at quarterback in 2014? Remember, the Wolverines will be bringing Wilton Speight into the fold as well, who may very well raise to five-star status by then as well. Shane Morris and Speight would likely battle it out for the starting role. I think it benefits Morris if going into that battle he has game experience, whether it’s just mop up time or not.
Also, consider the time he missed during his bout with mono. By redshirting, he would not have had action in a competitive game in almost two seasons come 2014.
A lot of things can happen between spring practice and the regular season. Injuries could set in, or a guy like Russell Bellomy could show great improvement and take the reigns of the #2 quarterback role, but knowing what we do now, I would not just hand him that job. If Bellomy or another QB on the roster rises up on the depth chart behind Gardner, then I have no issue with redshirting Morris, but if he clearly out-performs the other options, I just can’t see that happening.
And what if Devin Gardner goes down to injury during the year? Brady Hoke would be doing his team a disservice if Morris is better than the other backup options and redshirts him just to save a year of eligibility. I would feel a whole lot better with Shane Morris under center than I would with any other quarterback as a contingency plan.
Hey, I understand, it’s only February, and like I mentioned before, MANY things can change between now and then, but if Shane Morris rises above every one BUT Devin Gardner, he should be the number-two quarterback, plain and simple.