Backup: Shane Morris, True Freshman
Position Grade: B+
Let me ask you a question, if you were a head coach, would you take this situation as your starting QB?
Your starting QB is a former 5 star prospect that has been in the program for 3 years, has played live snaps in all 3 years and has experience as a starting WR and as the backup QB. He lead your program as the starting QB for the final 5 games last year and has 2 more years of eligibility left. He also happens to be 6'4 and 210 pounds.
I would say most coaches would take that situation all day. In fact, I expect great things from Devin Gardner this year. He is a true QB and has all the tools to lead this team to a Big Ten Championship. We all love Denard Robinson and his game changing ability to run the football, the problem was that he and the Michigan offense was one dimensional. It was run first and then hope Denard could pass. When Denard dropped back he threw the ball because he always wanted to prove he could throw. Which again took away from his greatest asset, which was his feet and the ability to make plays. He rarely scrambled on passing attempts, instead he threw balls up for grabs and sometimes to the other team.
What I have seen from Devin, I really like. Early in his career I was worried about his accuracy. He has always had a strong arm but my concern was, could he hit receivers in a small window? I think he proved he could do that at the end of last year. I was also very impressed by the work he put in this summer. He was working with a QB coach and even attended the Payton Manning Passing Camp. He was throwing everyday with his WR's and seemly was leading the team all summer. He also received some very good buzz coming out of the Manning camp, which is also very encouraging.
If Devin stays healthy, I think he has the opportunity to be the best QB in the Big Ten. That's the issue isn't it? Can he stay healthy? That's why I graded this position as a B+, the depth chart behind Devin equals a true freshman or a redshirt freshman walk-on. Neither situation is encouraging. I think Shane will be a good QB at Michigan but I think we all agree, he needs a couple of years in the program and working with the coaches before he starts a game in the maize and blue. If they want to redshirt him, that leaves Brian Cleary as the walk-on back up. In fact, Vegas makes Devin a 6-8 point player per game if he is healthy. Clowney for example is about a 2 point player if healthy.
Did Michigan miss an opportunity last year to get Devin more snaps?
I know hindsight is 20/20, but keeping Denard as a full time QB really didn't do him any favors with the NFL draft. Two years ago they tinkered with the idea but they only put Devin in for a few pays a game, using Denard as a decoy or taking a reverse handoff. Last year, it was clear Devin had grown as a signal caller and was ready to lead the team. Having both Denard and Devin in the game and 100% healthy would have been hard to stop if a defense didn't know where they were going to line up.
That strategy would have helped Denard with his WR skills like learning to run routes and getting used to catching the ball. Devin of course could have gotten more snaps as a QB and still lined up at WR. I think Big Al's experiment failed and failed hard in Nebraska. Can you imagine how hard it is to learn a new position, while your trying to make an NFL roster?
- BTW: Denard's new number for Jacksonville is #16.