Spring practice has begun, signifying the official beginning to an off-season that is paramount to success in 2014. Many changes have occurred on both sides of the ball, most notably the hiring of former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to the same position with the Wolverines.
A lot of people’s jobs are on the line this upcoming season, meaning that absolutely no one, coaches and players included, are safe. This has led head coach Brady Hoke into opening up the competition at arguably the most important position on the team: quarterback.
Redshirt senior Devin Gardner: Gardner was last season’s starter sans the bowl game, which he missed due to a foot injury. He has all of the physical attributes to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country, but has turnover problems. Few are as mobile in the pocket as he is with the arm strength he possesses. Poor offensive line play factored into problems with decision making. When he has time to make a play, more often than not, he does. The clear favorite to win the job as of now, but needs to be pushed. Nussmeier’s prescence will help immensely.
Sophomore Shane Morris: Fans clamored for Morris often throughout the 2013 season when Gardner struggled. He started the bowl game in place of the injured Gardner and showed flashes of good quarterback play at times, but was hampered by an awful performance from the offensive line, as that was the story of the entire season. Morris has the potential to have a fantastic arm, but needs to sharpen up mechanics. He is the biggest threat to Gardner’s job.
Freshman Wilton Speight: This early enrollee will get the chance to take reps with the first team during spring practice, which will benefit him. One of the more underrated pocket passers in the 2014 class. At 6-6, he can see the field well and has the potential to be an intimidating pocket presence. Not the fastest player, but does have solid mobility in the pocket. Enrolling early makes him the dark horse to earn the starting spot, especially if it comes down to him and Morris.
Redshirt junior Russell Bellomy: Bellomy missed the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL, but the staff still believes he can make an impact at the quarterback position. As far as archetype goes, he fits more of the Devin Gardner mold where he is more an athlete than a passer. Has some strange throwing mechanics and has never looked comfortable in the opportunities he has been given. This would be the longshot possibility.
Michigan has a lot of time to figure out where they are going at quarterback, as they have all of spring practice and training camp to let this thing play out. The odds are definitely in Gardner’s favor, and this competition is more of a way to push him than the staff not feeling confident in his ability. Time will tell where the Wolverines decide to go.