We’re kicking off the summer with some good stuff at The Big House Report. We have a whole slew of polls waiting to be unleashed, but we start with what I assume will be a favorite of most: Team MVP. And the question is a simple one. Who will be Michigan football‘s MVP this 2014 season?
I gathered any and all staff willing to participate in this series, and I received a decent variety of answers. As you can imagine, Devin Gardner was a popular pick. But to the surprise of myself and probably you, two defensive players found their way into the voting. It seems we grabbed talent from all across the board. After each staff member submitted a vote, I asked them to give me a confidence number (from one to 10), as well as an explanation as to why they chose who they did.
So here we go.
David Mormino: Blake Countess
Confidence Level: 7
My team MVP choice was a bit different from the norm, but I’m sticking with it. Blake Countess has been an incredible talent on the defensive side of the ball since his freshman year, and I think he makes that leap towards “elite” status in the Big Ten. Countess will be the team MVP for more reasons than his on-field production, and his leadership and wisdom could pay tremendous dividends for the Wolverines’ secondary this year, and many years beyond. If he picks up where he left off last season, he will be on his way towards team MVP.
Derek Devine: Devin Gardner
Confidence Level: 9
I would love to be able to switch things up a bit and vote for somebody else, but I can’t for this reason alone: Devin Gardner NEEDS TO BE the Team MVP for the Wolverines this fall. Whether you like it or not, the offense lives and dies by Gardner’s play. If Gardner wins back his starting job, as many expect him to, he will need to consistently perform at levels we only caught glimpses of last season. Gardner has a big year ahead of him, and I believe he will “Wow!” us on a week-to-week basis.
Anthony Broome: Jake Ryan
Confidence Level: 8.5
Jake Ryan has my vote for Team MVP because he will be the quarterback of Michigan’s defense switching over to middle linebacker, where he will factor in nearly every play. The Wolverines in my opinion will go as far as the defense takes them this year, meaning that Ryan will play a huge part in their success.. He is a natural leader with a nose for the football and has the look of a day two NFL Draft prospect, so he will have to show that on the field this year for the Wolverines.
Anthony Kaminski: Devin Gardner
Confidence Level: 6
Obviously, I’m not making too bold a prediction in going with Devin Gardner as my pick for team MVP in 2014; I’ll stand by it though. I’ve essentially gone all-in on the idea of Doug Nussmeier’s hiring being Michigan Football’s coming-to-Jesus moment; maybe that’s a tactic I used subconsciously to preserve my mental health over the doldrums of the college football offseason, or maybe it’s because I genuinely believe that Al Borges was an absolutely putrid offensive coordinator and that the only way to go is up. Either way, because of this, No. 98 is my pick. Anyone who’s watched him closely knows how fantastically talented this kid is. If the offensive line can step up with a new, greatly-simplified offensive playbook – which should both improve pass protection as well as benefit the run game, in turn opening up the play-action – we could see a big, big year from Mr. Gardner.
Tyler Fenwick: Devin Gardner
Confidence Level: 9
I had a really difficult time justifying any other player over Devin Gardner, mostly because Gardner’s path to glory is the easiest. Let’s look at like this: He’s a skilled quarterback who’s going to be forced to do a lot again this season. Combine those two factors and I’m not sure any other player’s production is going to outdo that of No. 98’s. He could obviously use some work in the turnovers department, but those mistakes are very fixable. And while I do have some concerns about his health moving forward, there really isn’t a whole lot standing between Gardner and another terrific season at quarterback.
Travis Devlin: Devin Gardner
Confidence Level: 8
For my Team MVP choice, I didn’t find my selection to be that difficult. Devin Gardner is the key to this offense. If he goes well, the team goes well. Now, obviously a lot of Gardner’s abilities will hinder on how improved or unimproved the offensive line is. With that said, Gardner has amazing athletic talent, with the option of tucking and running or throwing the ball on a dime into tight coverage. The only thing that I believe would prevent him from having an MVP type season is the aforementioned offensive line, and the biggest reason is his decision making. With a new year, a new offensive coordinator to learn under, and Devin Funchess moving outside to wide receiver, along with Amara Darboh coming back from injury, and the other weapons, things will go much smoother. Gardner has been through a lot at Michigan from being on the bench and wide receiver, to battling injuries and scrutiny. He’s now in his final year, and I expect him to end his collegiate career on high note. Go Blue!