The Michigan football program is facing a make or break season in 2014. Many changes have been implemented on both sides of the football, but there are still plenty of question marks surrounding this group.
To many, success this season hinges on the performance of the offense. In steps the new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to try and right the wrongs that led to the dismissal of Al Borges. The Wolverines will come out with a more pro-style approach to their offensive formations, which will include more power-run schemes and quarterbacks taking snaps in the pocket.
So how will the quarterbacks fare in this new system? Who will be the starter on Aug. 30 when Appalachian State comes to Ann Arbor? Find out all of that and more after the jump.
If the season were to begin this Saturday, redshirt senior Devin Gardner (6-4, 218) would and should be named the starting quarterback. He did not have the greatest showing in the Spring Game, but there were not many breakout performances to speak of in that session, anyways.
Is he the greatest decision maker? No, he isn’t. The tape does not lie. Far too many of his interceptions made fans go, “What?” as they left his hand, but go look at the numbers. Gardner did improve through conference play, even though those around him either didn’t or started to trend downward.
Gardner loses his favorite weapon in the form of Jeremy Gallon, who will now be catching passes from Tom Brady in New England. He still has junior Devin Funchess, though, who appears to be playing more wide receiver and was a guy Gardner locked on to (for better or worse) in the Spring Game.
He has the weapons and skill set to succeed in Nussmeier’s offense, but Gardner’s development leading up to and throughout this season has to be mental. That is the most important attribute of a successful quarterback.
If he lets up and does not perform up to the standards that the coaching staff has set for him, then the Wolverines have a guy they are high on to get the job done in sophomore Shane Morris (6-3, 202).
Throughout this offseason, there has been speculation that Morris and Gardner have been the two subjects in a battle for the starting quarterback spot. Based on what I’ve seen from Morris, I do not believe he is quite ready to be a full-time starter, but he has all of the tools to be a very good pocket passer for the Wolverines.
Morris has a cannon for an arm and throws a nice deep ball. His accuracy and touch leave a ton to be desired, but working with Nussmeier will help him. He has long been viewed as the quarterback of the future for the Wolverines, and he will have to prove it sooner rather than later. He does have the benefit of having a young receiving corps to work with, so down the road he can have a big impact for this program.
The guy that some view as a dark horse to land the starting quarterback gig is true freshman Wilton Speight. Speight was a three-star prospect when he committed to the Wolverines, but his stock slowly rose before he enrolled early in January.
At 6-6, 230, Speight has the size and arm strength that teams love in a pro-style quarterback. He will push Morris not just this season, but for the forseeable future, as well.
While I wouldn’t exactly call the signal callers that Team 135 has to offer a strength of the group, they have far bigger questions to answer than who will be taking snaps at quarterback.
Gardner will start and Morris will back him up, but I do believe both will be on short leashes. Speight could surprise this season, but if they get to the point where they are giving him a chance to play, it may not mean the team has been very successful.
Time will tell what happens with this group, but they have a solid depth chart that should produce nicely if given the opportunity to stay upright.