Since Michigan’s first loss to Penn State, there has been questions on whether quarterback Devin Gardner should be starting. Now there is even more questions concerning Gardner after Michigan’s embarrassing loss to Michigan State this past Saturday.
Keep in mind that Gardner is not solely to blame for the Wolverines recent loss to their in-state rival the Spartans or the struggles of this season but we all know Gardner has had his struggles this season. Which leads some people and fans to say that maybe freshman quarterback Shane Morris should be starting. Now there hasn’t been any comments by head coach Brady Hoke that he plans to make a change quarterback, this is just me giving you my take on the pros and cons of starting either Gardner or Morris.
Let’s start with Devin Gardner. While Gardner has struggled this season, it’s not all his fault. The offensive line has been horribly inconsistent, which leads to no protection. There is also no consistent running game which allows defenses to focus more on containing the passing game. Finally, there is inconsistency in the receiving core, besides wide receiver Jeremy Gallon and tight end Devin Funchess, no one else has stepped up consistently as a target for Gardner, he can’t throw when no one is open or able to get separation
Now that’s not to say that Gardner is blameless here, because that would be a lie. My main issue with Gardner is his decision-making, I know he doesn’t get protected as well as he should be but that doesn’t excuse him from throwing horrible passes or making bad decisions with the ball. So far this season he has thrown 11 interceptions which equals out to him averaging an interception per game. Then he also has had issues with accuracy and touch at times this season.
However, I think people have to also remember that this is Gardner’s first year starting at quarterback full-time at the college level. Which is why I suggested that Brady Hoke could have played Gardner at quarterback more last year. Think about it, most NFL Draft experts figured that Denard Robinson wouldn’t be used as quarterback at the next level and so far he hasn’t. So Hoke could have moved Robinson to another position such as receiver or running back and he could have been preparing Gardner at quarterback last season. I honestly feel some of the mistakes and struggles Gardner has now, he wouldn’t have if he had more experience at college quarterback before this season.
As far the pros to keeping Gardener at quarterback, it’s very simple. Despite his struggles this season, he has still shown the ability to lead his team to victory at times this season. He has shown he can face adversity and win games and perform in the clutch. He offers dual threat ability, which makes him hard to contain,seeing that he has rushed for 474 yards so far and nine touchdowns. Despite his mistakes, he never allows the previous mistake or failures to get him down, he comes right back and tries to make a play and win the game for his team.
As for the not starting Gardner, keep in mind if the Wolverines were to not start Gardner at quarterback, I don’t think they would just sit him on the bench, they could still use him in a different way. Gardner at one point played wide receiver for the Wolverines and he could do so again. Some experts feel that Gardner wouldn’t make it at quarterback in the NFL, so they would be better off starting Shane Morris and trying to convert Gardner to a true receiver. If they were to make this move, that would give Morris another tall target to pass to along with tight Devin Funchess and then you have the short but explosive wide receiver Jeremy Gallon, giving Morris three legit targets in the passing game.
However, I think for the fans saying that Gardner should not be starting have to remember that Gardner is only a junior which means he has the option to enter the draft or come back for his senior year with Michigan. So for those saying that Gardner needs to be benched, again remember that this is only his junior year and first year starting full-time at quarterback at the college level. I look at this year for him as a learning experience which makes me think that this he will be much better next year as will the team. Think about it, the offensive line who is truly to blame for the offensive woes this season should be better because they will have better experience and should perform better which will help the running game and Gardner. Then the receiving core should be better because they will hopefully have more developed weapons. I honestly think fans sometimes are so quick to want immediate success that when a player or team struggles, they demand changes. Besides the loss to Penn State, Michigan hasn’t surprised me that much. So don’t necessarily be so quick to give up on Gardner because he is struggling, especially when you consider that he isn’t the only one on this Michigan team struggling this season.
Which leads me to freshman quarterback Shane Morris. When it comes to starting Morris right now, there are huge concerns. Mainly because your sticking him to the same inconsistent situation that Gardner is already in. The offensive line has been horribly inconsistent, which leads to no consistent protection. There is also no consistent running game and there is inconsistency in the receiving core. Which makes you second guess putting a freshman in that situation. He has no experience and putting him in the situation, when your trying to win games probably wouldn’t workout well. Then you have to wonder, would he be able to earn and command the respect of this Michigan team as a freshman and you definitely don’t want him getting hurt to soon.
However, there some pros to starting Morris. While there is no doubt that starting Shane Morris could be tough on him and the team, it would also be great for him to get some early real-game experience, especially if they plan to start him next year. Back in high school the main things Morris needed to work on was accuracy and decision-making and sure he can work on those things in practice but nothing compares like real game experience. As I said earlier, Michigan would have been smart to do this with Gardner last year. So this way he could have been better prepared for this season, so again if they feel Morris is the quarterback of their future it may be smart to play him now but there is no guarantee that Michigan plans to start Morris next year.
So as you can see, there are pros and cons of starting either Gardner or Morris. Again, as I said earlier, Brady Hoke has not hinted that he will be making a quarterback change. This is just me breaking down the pros and cons of starting either one. You have my take on it, feel free to make your statement on who should be starting.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
Listen to LBeasley’s Radio Show, “Sports Talk with L-Beasley” every Mon, Wed & Fri from 6-8pm (ET) on LBeasley.com